My Top Five International Travel Experiences in 2018

This year was monumental for me, as I took my first steps on the continents of Asia and South America. I want to share some recommendations of places I loved and why. I hope they will inspire some of your upcoming travel plans.

  1. Trujillo, Peru – It’s hard to express how much I adored visiting the city of Trujillo and the city’s mystical ruins, Huaca de la Luna, or the Temple of the Moon. A stop on Silversea Expedition Cruise granted us access to a tour guide who was a descendant of the Mochi Civilization, the people who built and lived in this structure between the years 100-800 BCE. We also briefly toured downtown Trujillo with its sprawling, colorful community poised between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Trujillo has outstanding examples of Spanish colonial architecture and superb Peruvian restaurants. As Machu Picchu crowds grow and the landmark is threatened by over-tourism, consider visiting Trujillo instead. How to get there: Silversea Cruises Where to stay: Gran Bolivar Hotel

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    2. Hong Kong – If you’re a shopping fanatic (guilty) you will be overwhelmed with the incredible fun of shopping in Hong Kong, which features the most exclusive designers to the very best bargains. The Central neighborhood overlooking scenic Victoria Harbor is the place to find every luxury boutique from Christian Louboutin to Dior to Balenciaga. If you want to find knock off designer gear, head to the Ladies Market, which opens after 6 pm in Mong Kok. Bring cash but be ready to negotiate! I loved taking a sunrise cruise on the Harbor and watching the glittering lights twinkle on throughout the city. Hong Kong is also super friendly for English-speaking tourists and very easy to get around using public transportation. Where to stay: Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong Flagship. How to get there: Cathay Pacific Airlines

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    3. Shanghai – If you think China is a traditional country, you’ll be amazed at the combination of modernity and history in one of the fastest growing cities in the world. Today’s Shanghai has 23 million people and is built on two sides of the Huangpu River – the original Shanghai is called Puxi, known for its wide pedestrian waterfront walkway called The Bund. Other highlights include the lush urban gardens of Chenghuang Temple; and remnants of French colonial rule in the historic French Concession. Shoppers will have a blast navigating the Times-Square-like Nanjing Street. Across the river in Pudong, you’ll feel like you stepped into the future, with its space-age-style architecture (like the Oriental Pearl Tower), stunning Aurora Museum, Grand Mall and the skyscrapers that make up China’s fast-paced financial market. I fell in love with both sides of Shanghai, and found the city to be super accessible, friendly, energetic and dedicated to excellence. Where to stay: Mandarin Oriental Pudong How to get there: Cathay Pacific Airlines

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    4. Panama City, Panama – Panama City is a sleeper. You won’t believe the height of the skyscrapers sitting side-by-side with Casco Viejo, Panama’s thriving Spanish colonial neighborhood. It’s a fascinating dichotomy for these industrious citizens whose city is at the southern mouth of the great Panama Canal.  Panama City isn’t overrun with tourists, but those who are lucky enough to visit, will feel most welcome here. Citizens will help you whenever they can (including locating my lost wallet in a city park. It was found by a park attendant and presented back to me with everything intact). The seafood market, Mercado de Mariscos is flourishing, and an ideal place to try Panama’s exquisite ceviche. Local artisans sell their crafts on the street, and the whole place feels like a roving party on the weekends. Where to stay: Global Hotel Panama How to get there: American Airlines

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    5. Trastevere, Italy – Rome is a very busy city, often over-crowded with tourists. To experience Rome the way the Italians like it best, find yourself a place to stay in Trastevere, directly across the Tiber River. This neighborhood is filled with narrow streets, cute bistros, gardens, popular bars and is just down the road from Vatican City. It’s also extremely easy to get into the heart of Rome from Trastevere— Tram #8 will take you almost anywhere you want to go. We so enjoyed our stay in Trastevere, and I long to return to spend more time exploring this vibrant community. Where to stay: we loved The New Velvet Apartment Airbnb. If you go, tell Sarah that Renee sent you!

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Freelance writer and photographer specializing in vivid, deeply reported stories about food, travel and family.

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