IMG_0402-e1672439462408 Our Year in Travel: 2022 The Expat Life Travel
The Christmas lights in our town of El Retiro, Colombia featured an underwater theme this year. They were fabulous, but hard to get around to and photograph with a broken ankle!

For us, 2022 was a year of spectacular travel experiences. And profound loss.

John and I like to do a retrospective about this time, looking back on our travels and other significant events that shaped our lives through the past year. It’s a time to reflect – with deep gratitude – on the opportunities we’ve had to travel and also to experience life in our amazing adopted country, Colombia.  This year did not disappoint in either aspect, even with some pretty gnarly curve balls thrown our way.

For starters, about three weeks ago I broke my ankle while hiking in a beautiful but remote area near Salento, Colombia. It was quite an adventure for both of us – here are all the gory details!

Earlier this year, our family experienced a sad loss: the death of our brother-in-law, David Kuhn, to complications from Covid. David was a very special person and is deeply missed by all of us. He was only 58.

Also, 2022 will forever be etched in our hearts as the year that we lost both of our fur kids and found ourselves without pets for the first time in our 27-year relationship. Last February, Tango, our sweet, 14-year-old cocker spaniel, left us after a short struggle with cancer and pancreatitis. Losing Tango was terrible, but the pain was compounded because we were traveling in Spain at the time. To this day, we are sorrowful that we weren’t able to be with him and say goodbye (thankfully our wonderful house-sitters stepped in).

IMG_9893-768x1024 Our Year in Travel: 2022 The Expat Life Travel
Tango came into our lives when he was 8. We needed each other at a fraught time: We had just lost Maggie, our precious Labrador, and Tango helped fill that void. He gave us so much joy with his goofy, lovable, happy spirit and big floppy ears that bounced up and down when he ran.

And only this week, we lost Rosie, our golden retriever and our angel. She was almost 14, and her kidney disease and recently diagnosed lymphoma finally overcame her. We set her free to play with Tango and her other heavenly brothers and sisters last Monday.

IMG_9026-768x1024 Our Year in Travel: 2022 The Expat Life Travel
To know Rosie was to adore her. She was our princess, our true daughter. She picked us out from about 5 litters of bouncing puppies by coming over and nestling on my shoe. We repaid the favor by giving her almost 14 years of boundless love and fun adventures. She lived with us in Oregon, California, Panama, and now Colombia.

We are awash in grief. But we’re also deeply aware that our lives have just changed fundamentally. Now, we will be able to travel without time limitations. And without the grinding worry about our sweet senior dogs back home, who were never far from top-of-mind wherever we roamed. Therefore, 2023 looks to be an exciting year for travel – once I’m no longer hobbling around on crutches!

But this is a retrospective. So here is our Year in Travel for 2022!

February: Spain

We spent most of February exploring Spain’s Costa Blanca region, starting in Valencia and traveling to Alicante and as far south as Cartagena. This beautiful region along the Mediterranean has captured our imaginations and is likely our next “home base” for exploring Europe (spoiler: it will probably be Alicante!).

Spain blog links:
12 Things We Love About Valencia, Spain
8 Things We Love About Alicante, Spain
Hiking in Spain: Los Órganos de Benitandús
Cartagena, Spain: In Roman Footsteps
Spain’s Costa Blanca: Six Fantastic Towns

April: Mexico

In April we spent 23 days roaming an area of central Mexico we’d been keen to visit, with stays in Mexico City, Guanajuato, Dolores Hidalgo, and San Miguel de Allende. Mexico City was a revelation: a dazzling, colorful, and chaotic melding of culture, history, and – oh, my Lord – cuisine. We also happened on Guanajuato just in time for Holy Week, which added an extra dollop of culture (and chaos) to that visit. All in all, it was a fantastic and unforgettable trip.

Mexico blog links:
6 Amazing Mexico City Discoveries
Things to Do in Mexico City: Centro
Things to Do in Mexico City: Beyond Centro
Guanajuato, Mexico: A City That Glows
Two Days in San Miguel De Allende, Mexico

October: Brazil

This was the trip of a lifetime! For our very first visit to Brazil, we focused on a small portion of the southern coast from Rio de Janeiro south to Florianapolis. We started with 8 days in Rio, which exceeded our expectations in every way. From there, we headed south to the wild and otherworldly Iha Grande and then the enchanting seaside town of Paraty.  We finished up with Florianapolis and Santa Catalina Island, home to fantastic beaches and a rich Portuguese culture.

Given the personal and family challenges that have come our way in the past couple of months, we’re a bit behind on our Brazil blogging. But we have managed to post these entries so far:

Brazil Discoveries: Tips for First-Time Visitors
Rio de Janeiro: What to See and Do, Part I

Colombia Travels

In 2022 we continued our Colombia explorations, discovering more charming colonial towns and making some much-needed and relaxing beach getaways. We started the year with a visit to Concepción, a scenic little town that’s off the beaten tourist path. Next came a return trip to Isla San Andres, Colombia’s little-known Caribbean paradise. We followed that up with a visit to the colonial heritage town of Santa Fe de Antioquia for John’s birthday, and then a return getaway to Tayrona National Park. We marked my birthday with a week-long visit to the capitol city of Bogotá. And finally, there was the fateful trip to Salento just three weeks ago, which was cut short when I broke my ankle.

Colombia blog links:
Colorful Concepción, Colombia
San Andres, Colombia: An Off-the-Radar Gem
Santa Fe de Antioquia: A Colombian Gem
Bogotá, Colombia: 7 Cool Things to Do and See
Visiting Colombia’s Caribbean Coast

Looking Ahead With Gratitude

In addition to the trips above, we made three trips to Texas to spend time with family and also traveled to Boquete, Panama to finalize the sale of our house there – a bittersweet trip. Although the Covid pandemic is far from over (the tragedy unfolding in China is truly mindboggling), 2022 brought us more freedom and a closer sense of normalcy as we traveled. And here we are, facing a brand-new year and new beginnings as pet-free travelers. We’re already thinking Puerto Rico, Bolivia, a return trip to Brazil, and – maybe – an excursion to Antarctica toward the end of the year.

IMG_0672 Our Year in Travel: 2022 The Expat Life Travel
Muñecas spotted in the nearby town of Llanogrande yesterday. It’s a popular Colombian tradition to burn these fellows on New Year’s Eve to symbolize everything you want to leave behind from the past year. Up in smoke with the pain, heartache, and sad memories, and in with a clean slate. Now, that’s a tradition we can get behind!

 

IMG_9698-768x1024 Our Year in Travel: 2022 The Expat Life Travel
Jen and Norm at Tequendamita Falls near our home.

It’s time for a big THANK YOU to our fabulous dog caretakers. First, Jennifer and Norm Sun, who showered Tango and Rosie with love and gave us tremendous peace of mind for the long Spain, Mexico, and Brazil trips. Also, Karen Hadley and David Anderson, who stepped in for our last trip to Austin in November. Of course,  Francisco y Martha at Pets Pro, for giving the kids a fun and loving home-away-from-home for shorter trips. And Eliana Robledo of Help Vet, our awesome and compassionate vet, who somehow made the loss of Tango and Rosie a bit more bearable.

As 2022 draws to a close, we’re filled with gratitude. We’re so grateful that we got to share so many wonderful years with our dear fur kids. Grateful that my injury was not worse. Grateful that we had the resources, energy, and health to be able to have those mind-blowing travel experiences.

And we’re grateful to you, our loyal readers, for all your support. 

Here’s Wishing You Peace, Health, and Boundless Adventures in 2023!

36 Comments

  1. Your wonderful blogs show the writing talent you must cherish. I always feel like I am along for the ride. Speedy healing from your scary fall so you can get back out there. So sad that you lost both your dogs this year. I know they were a joy to you. Looking forward to 2023 adventures❣️

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you so much, dear Kay! Hope you and Yannick are well, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

  2. What a sad year losing your brother-in-law and both dogs. But you were able to get quite a few trips in, wishing you both a safe, healthy and happy 2023. Maggie and Richard

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Maggie and Richard. Wishing you both the same in 2023, plus tons new travel adventures. Happy New Year! 🙂

  3. We live in Cali and 4 years ago lived in Medellin. We just got back from Las Lajas and in Feb are meeting my sisters in Salento, and we will be very careful.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Las Lajas is on our list to visit. I’ll bet it was spectacular this time of year! You will love Salento, and we highly recommend the hike we did and the tour company – La Carbonera and Salento Trekking. Just try not to get caught in the rain 🙂

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, you two. It’s definitely bittersweet (at the moment, more on the bitter side), but we are looking forward to the freedom. Hope you had a spectacular New Year in Panama, with beaucoup fireworks, I’m sure!

  4. So sorry for your beautiful fur kids. But so in awe of your love of life and so open to the wonder of our planet! Thanks for the brilliant writing that brings to where you travel. Happy New Year!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you so much! And bounteous New Year’s greetings to you and your family. 🙂

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Same to you, Mel – wishing you a safe, happy, and adventurous New Year!!

  5. I’m so sorry that your beautiful fur kids are no longer with you…our family Weimaraner also passed away on August 2022. She was very special and also came at a time in our lives when we needed her the most. I wish you both a Happy New Year and I can’t wait to hear about your trip to Puerto Rico!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Oh, Liz, I’m so sorry to hear that you also lost a fur baby. One thing that’s a given about having pets is that they are almost certain to break our hearts, since most likely we will outlive them. Goes with the territory, but it doesn’t make it any easier when the time comes. Wishing you and your family a safe, happy, and prosperous New Year!

  6. Have an amazing 2023, full of travel experiences, adventure, and freedom, Susan and John. You two have had a busy year nevertheless, with lots of trips.

    I’m very sorry for the loss of your fur babies. It’s been a tough year. Yes, you’ll be even more free to travel, but I wonder when your hearts will melt by another puppy. 🙂 Then, you’ll have to get a camper and travel overland for the foreseeable future. Maybe in Europe?

    We hope to see you one of the coming months and will do our best to plan that visit in between your adventures abroad.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you so much, Liesbet! No, we’re pretty certain we’ll take a puppy break for a while (but who knows what the future holds?). But a camper adventure such as yours is realllly appealing! We are so happy to be reading about your adventures in Colombia, especially now that you’ve gotten out of Cartagena. And so far we only have one trip planned in mid-Feb, so a meet-up is very likely. Let’s stay in touch!
      – Susan

  7. So sorry for your loss, and for your broken ankle. Wishing a speedy recovery and a wonderful 2023!
    I was listening some music few days ago, and was thinking that I haven’t really heard anyone traveling in Puerto Rico.. so, can’t wait to read about your trip there. Have a kind and beautiful new year!! xx

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much, Christie. And yes, we’re very much looking forward to Puerto Rico after several friends’ rave reviews after visiting there. Bounteous New Year’s greetings back to you. 🙂

  8. What a year filled with emotions, both happy and sad, for both of you! I’m sorry for the losses, but I’m also happy that you managed to keep traveling. Fingers crossed, your broken ankle will heal soon so you and John can hit the road again and share your stories with us. Wishing you a new year filled with happiness and fulfilling travels!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much, Bama! Happy New Year to you and your loved ones, and here’s to a year of good health, happiness, and adventure! 🙂

  9. I’m so sorry for the loss of your precious fur babies. It looks like you had a fabulous 2022 otherwise. I enjoy following your travels and look forward to see where you’re going in 2023. Happy New Year.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Mike and Kellye. Happy New Year to you both!

  10. Oh, I love that you are dog lovers. I, too, have wonderful memories of special dogs in my life which I am grateful for now. Your ankle will (because I’ve decided it will) get better soon and you will again be able to climb and explore and enjoy your days. Happy 2023, Muriel

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thank you, Muriel! Our fur babies really do leave permanent paw prints on our hearts. And I appreciate your positive energy for my ankle – it’s getting better every day! Happy New Year back to you, and big hugs.
      – Susan

  11. So sorry for the losses of your BIL and beloved pets. They are definitely family. We lost our 14 year old beagle a month ago and we still move things to the upper shelves so he can’t get at them. He had no illnesses, just old age. The other one with every illness in the world keeps chugging along, but it’s just a matter of time and we will find ourselves without pets in a long time.
    Great that you decided on Alicante as your next home. You certainly can’t go wrong :-). We still love it here in Valencia after five years. See you around these here parts :-), and Happy New Year!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much, KemKem! So sorry to hear about your sweet fur baby. 14 seems to be the magic number here – a long and rich life, for sure. We will have to look you up next time we come to Valencia! Hoping to get another Spain trip in soon. Happy New Year back to you! 🙂

  12. Guy & Tracy Reply

    Hey guys. So sorry to hear about your pups. I always loved getting mauled by your dogs when we visited in Panama! We know the joy dogs bring to our lives, and how hard it is to lose them. We also understand the feeling of freedom to travel with no dogs at home. We kind’of did the opposite of you guys. We spent our entire time as expats without them. Now, after re-settling back in the states, we have a dog again for the first time in TEN years!! We are tossing around getting an RV of some type instead of trying to find “dog friendly” hotels on our road trips. But inevitably, we will have to find a sitter for our trips when we fly to other countries….not looking forward to that! Anyway, we are glad to hear you are back on your feet. That was a crazy experience! So glad you had wonderful people to come to your rescue. All the best to you both in 2023. We continue to look forward to your blogs of your future trips!
    Guy & Tracy

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Heyyyy Guy and Tracy! So great to hear from you. And sorry for my belated reply. Congrats on getting a dog. We wish you many, many great years with your new furbaby! And as far as sitters go, we strongly encourage you to check out Trusted House Sitters. We’ve had fantastic results with sitters from THS, including Jennifer and Norm mentioned above, who are now close friends of ours.

      Anyway, best of luck and have a great new year!
      – Susan (and John of course!)

  13. What an exciting year you’ve had, except for that whole broken ankle thing. How is it healing? Lovely photos. I travel vicariously through you as that part of the world is not yet on our radar. We love Europe and feel as if we’ve barely scratched the surface.

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