Another year is coming to its end and, unavoidably, we all indulge in reminiscing the experiences of the past twelve months, recalling feelings, achievements, explorations, adventures, people, discussions, colors, and landscapes. From a distance, most challenges fade away, and only beauty and joy remain vivid, nurturing hope: humanity's most precious treasure and gift. We make plans for the year ahead, we draw ambitious resolutions and, most importantly, we dare to dream – and, magically, everything
Looking back, it is difficult to choose amongst our most favorite, 2019 moments. However, as we, Rahhalahs, are born to explore, we linger for a while on the memories collected from the new destinations to which we traveled, where the call of the unknown was louder, and the sensation of new discoveries was a bit stronger.
We landed on Greenland in August, when the days were endless, and the sun never set. The landscapes were vast and so scarcely populated that we almost felt alone on the island. The ice-fjords and glamping accommodations were spectacular. The silence and the connection with wilderness so pristine as one can dream were beyond expectations. And, yet, what touched our hearts the most was the interaction with the local Inuit tribes: the simplicity and determination that define their lives.
Ethiopia left us speechless. We got enveloped in the echo of the local markets' buzz and the aroma of freshly-roasted coffee; we went on a pilgrimage to 1000-years-old churches chiseled on vertical rocks; we slept next to a boiling lava lake at the top of a volcano, and we stopped for a while at the deepest spot of Africa and the hottest place in the world. The terrain's roughness was softened by the kindness of the locals, and we were left in awe both with the people and the land.
Costa Rica is among the greenest and happiest countries in the world. For decades, it has been enjoying peace and prosperity by choice, having abolished its army permanently in the 1940sm focusing on human development, sustainability, and the protection of the environment. It is a renowned destination for ecotourism, offering countless options for adventurous activities. We rafted and hiked and explored, but, most of all, we were impressed at what humans can achieve when they choose peace and development over confusion and war.
The Norwegian fjords are a bucket-list destination everyone should see at least once in a lifetime. They are impressive and grand, and we walked, hiked, kayaked, and cruised through them to our heart's delight. However, beyond the beauty that has been bestowed on the Norwegian landscapes, we were impressed by the social organization, the renewable energy focus (especially for a country whose economy is based on oil and gas), and the stunning waste-to-fuel industry that urges Norway into buying garbage from its neighboring countries.
Kazakhstan remains a hidden gem in the tourism industry and, hence, its cities and landscapes are pristine and authentic. The countryside is stunningly beautiful, with magical lakes surrounded by snowcapped mountains, dramatic gorges, and enchanting forests. The most exciting part was that we traveled on the ancient silk road: the route that changed the history and economy of the countries it traversed, connecting the exotic Orient with Europe. There was something very pure and real in Kazakhstan, and we feel lucky we explored it before it gets attacked by the tourist hoards.
Despite its proximity to two larger, historically imperialistic neighbors (China and Japan), South Korea managed to preserve a unique and distinct culture. Its cities are overpopulated, noisy, expensive, and exotic, but we did not linger there. Instead, we flew to the archipelago at the southern coast of the country, focusing on Jeju, whose mountains, shores and caves offer numerous opportunities for adventures. From hiking and caving to kayaking and tea-plantation visiting, there is little we did not do
while in S. Korea.