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I am a New York-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

The Ghosts of Christmas Past

I’ve been going through some sort of nesting phase that I can’t quite explain; cleaning has taken on a new meaning as dirt and dust have started to cower before my mighty spray bottle. Just a couple of days ago I ventured into the closet in my guest bedroom, which is actually more of a personal office or library, and emptied it out in an attempt to rid myself of a stack of unwanted possessions. Well, in the middle of my assault on clutter I came across a box of photographs that contained all of the old Christmas cards I’ve sent to family and friends over the past six years. It was an interesting trip down memory lane, and one that I thought I’d take the time to share here with all of my online friends.

The Christmas cards were in no particular order, but for organizational sake I’ll go chronologically here…

Antarctica was a place unlike any other I had ever been; sure, I saw plenty of snow and ice growing up in Minnesota, but it was the pristine nature of Antarctica that amazed me. Despite booking my trip a year in advance, I traveled there on a whim. I had done a bit of research about traveling to what is downunder the Downunder, but wasn’t sold on it. Yet, one morning I woke up, called the tour operator, and booked the trip before I even realized what I was doing. It was an unbelieveable adventure, and the one that really kicked off my desire for continued international travel. I had been out of the United States before Antarctica, back in my high school days, but this is really what got me interested in traveling again.

I struggled with trying to find a way to top my trip to Antarctica. I knew it was nearly an impossible task, but I wracked my brain the best I could to come up with an idea nonetheless. In the end, I decided on traveling to Egypt over my birthday in 2005 with my friend Brian. We had talked a little about the trip in the weeks leading up to our booking, but pretty much did it on a whim as well. Brian felt he was given a sign when watching a television program one day, and I was obnoxiously relenting in pushing him to come along with me on my first trip to Africa – yes folks, Egypt is technically in Africa. We landed in Cairo and spent an unforgettable week in Egypt seeing many of the major sites, including the unpleasant experience of visiting the Pyramids of Giza on camel-back, and have many memories we still laugh about. I’m not sure I topped Antarctica in this trip, but the bar was set so high I was unsure it would ever be possible.

I left Egypt with a desire to see more impressive man-made structures, so I almost immediately decided to travel to Beijing the next year. I wanted to see the Great Wall of China, and damn it I also wanted it on my Christmas card for that year. I didn’t have a picture of myself at the pyramids in Egypt on my card, substituting instead the impressive Cairo Museum, and I wanted to make up for it on a trip to China. Also unlike Egypt, I wasn’t trying to top a previous vacation. Instead, I went to China with open eyes – apparently an open stomach, too, since I think I attempted to eat dog – and had a fantastic time seeing the sites in and around the country’s capitol city. And for the record, dog is about as disgusting as stuffed-pigeon is in Egypt. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Because of my international travels, and the linking of my main credit card to a frequent flier account, I had enough miles in 2007 to travel in business class to Australia and New Zealand. Well, in actuality, it was Sydney, Australia with another stop of my choice – I chose New Zealand for the simple fact that I wanted to see some spots where the Lord of the Rings films were shot on the country’s south island. I’m a huge dork like that and just couldn’t help myself. But, for the simple reason of visual identification I chose a photo from Australia for my Christmas card. It’s the country in which I had the most fun, too, since I met up with some judo buddys who I hung out with for a week having an amazing time in the process. Thumbing through my old Christmas cards while cleaning out the closet I was hit with a rush of those old memories, and am quite keen on returning all too soon to a place that I’m quite fond of – yes my friends, I’m not being sarcastic, I’m speaking of Australia and to your friendly smiles.

Everyone has seen those Mastercard commercials about how something is priceless – like traveling to Sweden to find out you’re actually Norwegian, or whatever. Well, in 2008 my father and I took just that trip to France. When he was stationed in Germany during the Vietnam War he never traveled west, instead opting to see Eastern Europe for a reason I still don’t quite understand. I have an interested in traveling to Eastern Europe, so don’t get me wrong, but this was in the time of the Iron Curtain. Regardless, he always had a desire to see Paris and the Beaches of Normandy, along with making a side trip to the far western side of Germany to see, once again, where our family emigrated to the United States from. We had an amazing time on our trip, only occasionally getting on each other’s nerves (a small miracle), and talked in passing about returning to Europe together again some day. I think it may be time to do so, and explore a bit more of both our Fatherland and a continent with so many interesting places that it could take a complete lifetime to scrath the surface.

It had been years, as you can see, since I really saw any part of my home country, the United States. I had spent years traveling to various international locales, and pretty well ignored seeing anything of America other than Colorado and Minnesota, where I live and where I grew up. So, in 2009, I made it a point to change that and see a little of what makes my own country so special. I started by visiting a friend in Hawaii with another friend from London. We had an amazing time and continually talk of going back to see more of the islands. The second trip in the U.S. was to New York for a wedding and a bit of sightseeing in the Big Apple. I hadn’t been since I was a child and was eager to take the time to see what many consider the greatest country in the world. And after a weekend there I can honestly say those people aren’t far off the mark. New York City was fantastic, so I was prime to jump on the chase to return this year, too. My last stop in 2009 in the United States was my second-ever trip to Los Angeles. The first was for a judo tournament, so I saw nothing more than the airport and a gym, but on this one I was able to get out and see the sights a bit. And so, I put together a Christmas card collage of great memories from three impressive locales in the United States.
My trip with the Ghost of Travels Past came to an abrupt end with the United States in 2009. The Christmas cards for the Ghost of Travels Present had yet to arrive, so I had to remain patient and continue my cleaning. It wasn’t easy, though, since I wanted the cards to be finished and for me to get them in the mail. It wasn’t easy, since I’m not usually a patient person, but ultimately they did come, and I could recall my some of my interesting travels from this year. But, that’s another story for another time.

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