Oh, the places I have gone!

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The trip I’ve just returned from, which took me through Benin, Togo and Ghana, was one of the best of my life thanks entirely to the Benin portion. I feel that my new life’s calling is to work for the Benin Tourism Board. People should be flooding into the country every January for the awe-inspiring Vodoun Festival and to visit Abomey, capital of the fascinating Dahomey kingdom. On the other hand, considering that I was horrified by the bad behavior I witnessed on the part of many tourists during my trip, maybe it’s not the best idea to encourage more to come.

I’ll fill in the details when I post photos and videos over the next few weeks. There is so much ground to cover, both literally and figuratively, that I’ll split things up into manageable pieces.

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flight connections

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I’d just like to point out the existence of a website I just discovered, Flight Connections, which features an interactive map with every flight path that exists. Choose a departure city and the map populates with all available flight paths, then choose your arrival city and a sidebar populates with airlines and possible travel days. Type in your dates and with one click, a SkyScanner window opens with airfares and booking information. It’s pretty magical – and so obvious, I don’t know why it never occurred to me to search for a site like this before today.

Whenever I’ve needed this service in the past, like when I was trying to game the airline miles system, I’ve always just Googled individual cities, i.e. “City X direct flights,” and then triangulated as needed. I could have saved so much time – and had so much more fun – using this little tool. On the other hand, I’ve just spent an hour looking at random departure-arrival combinations (Cairo to Addis, Addis to Nairobi, Nairobi to Lamu…) and fantasizing about future vacations there, so maybe on the balance it is actually a time-waster.

Anchors aweigh! (Or more appropriately, wheels up!)

40 for 39

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At the age of 38, I realized that I had been to 39 states and 38 countries and territories, and that felt pretty neat. Because I like finding arbitrary ways to make my life needlessly challenging, I decided I would always try to keep my state and my country counts at or ahead of my years-on-earth count.

In September I went to Idaho for the first time, sliding into 40 states one month ahead of my 39th birthday. Last March I went to Vietnam and Hong Kong, which I thought brought me to 40, until I realized I could count Vatican City and Palestine and be all the way up to 42.

In January I’ll be visiting Togo and Ghana for the first time, which means I will be relatively safe in the countries department for awhile. However, I’m already a little anxious about how I’m going to rack up state number 41. I’m overdue for a visit to Missouri to see my friends, Ryan and Tom (hi!!!), and that’s probably what I’ll do. But I keep thinking I should knock out Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Missouri, and Kentucky in one fell road trip swoop and you know it’ll take me like ten years to execute on that plan. I could more easily go to Georgia, the only state on the eastern seaboard I haven’t technically visited, but I have grand plans for that state, too. When it comes down to it, I have grand plans for everywhere I want to go, so I either need to start spending more time and money on vacations or become more at peace with breaking them up into little bite sized chunks. I’m not sure which option is less improbable.

Portland! (Plus a quick trip to the Oregon coast)

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In September I flew to Oregon to visit my sister, brother-in-law, and three year-old niece. I stayed in their new house on the southern edge of Portland, in a town called Oregon City, which was the terminus of the Oregon Trail. Even though I miss them terribly, it seems apt that my sister ended up there since she played that game obsessively in grade school. 

I had already spent time exploring northeast Oregon and Washington five years ago, and my family would be at work/preschool during much of the week, so I decided to rent a car and take a few days for a side trip to a new place: Idaho. I ended up doing one giant loop, from Portland southeast to Crater Lake, east to Boise, northwest to Pendleton, and back to Portland, with some detours and stops along the way for good measure. It was a feast for the eyes the entire way around. 

I’m splitting up the pictures into three parts. First: Portland and vicinity.

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