Building off of 2021, the year 2022 became one of new locations that I never got the chance to explore in the 10+ years prior I’d been living in Asia. Heading from the dry Mediterranean islands with history going back 4000 years, I made it to several of the oldest and most monumental cities in the western hemisphere in just the first half of the year– including my first venture into South America.
It needs to be emphatically stated how much I hate winter — and I had been spoiled with the warm climate living in Chiang Mai the previous few years.
As winter came to Europe at the end of 2021, I fled as far south as I could go to Cyprus. Around the turn of the year, my visa was beginning to wrap up and omicron restrictions were becoming more prevalent in the country and it was getting harder to do much without the latest booster, something I couldn’t get in the country.
Deciding to ride out the visa until the end and then head back to the United States, the rest of my year became focused in North America. After a short stint between Michigan and Colorado, I once again fled from winter in the United States into Mexico.
10) Nicosia, Cyprus
Nicosia (also Lefkosia) is the largest city in Cyprus and is in the center of the island. During my entire stay in Cyprus, I often ended up comparing the island nation, fairly or unfairly, to Crete, a similar-sized island in the south of Greece I had been to 6 months before. Nicosia was no exception to this.
My first impressions of Nicosia were … mixed. Parking a couple of blocks from the national Cyprus Museum, I was looking forward to exploring the old city contained within the star-shaped Venetian walls.
Passing through the Venetian city walls, it felt like I had entered a bizarro version of Heraklion — the capital of Crete and one of my favorite cities in the world. There were similar-looking historic buildings, but everything was eerily quiet, sometimes bordering on deserted.
As I neared the center of the city, things became more lively. Restaurants and a commercial street all surrounded the Ledra Street Checkpoint – the border crossing between the UN Buffer Zone, commonly called the Green Line.
My car rental had specified that I wasn’t to bring the car into Northern Cyprus, due mostly to insurance issues. So, I hadn’t brought my passport or any other documents needed to cross through the checkpoint in the middle of the city. But it was curious to see it passing by to just get an idea of how the entire system operates.
9) Denver, United States
That month or so in Denver after Bolivia was a welcome homecoming back to the United States. In just the prior 2 weeks, I’d gotten 2 extremely debilitating bouts of food poisoning between La Paz and my layover in Mexico City. Being back in a familiar place with family for a long period of time is something I hadn’t done much recently.
Staying about halfway between my sister’s home and a coworking space where I spent most of my days, I was feeling out the prospect of living in Denver or another US city long-term for the first time in a while.
8) Grand Rapids, United States
In July, I returned to my home city in Michigan, where I spent the rest of the year. This was my first time in over 10 years staying in the United States for more than a month or two at a time. It provided the chance to get reacquainted with local happenings. And, for once, it wasn’t in the middle of the winter — the time I have most commonly seemed to end up visiting Michigan.
7) La Paz, Bolivia
Bolivia — and South America in general — was completely unknown territory when the whim came up to check it out before heading back to the United States in June. It was a rough first week in mountain city, as I was hit hard while acclimatizing to the altitude, something I didn’t expect having come straight from Mexico City.
And, as luck would have it, just as I was starting to get over the altitude sickness and began venturing out into the city, I was struck with very bad food poisoning. This kept me in bed for almost the entire first week of my 2-week visit.
During the 2nd week, I was finally able to get out into the city and also hire a guide to the archaeological site of Tiwanaku. The geography of La Paz was certainly very different from any city I can remember being in. But, like Mexico City, it didn’t sway me one way or the other. I enjoyed the couple of days I just spent wandering around, but it’s not someplace I’d rush back to.
6) San Juan Teotihuacán, Mexico
The ancient city of Teotihuacán is a popular day trip from Mexico City and most visitors can see the highlights in that time. However, I was there to see as much of the city as I could. This meant staying more than a day. In fact, my entire first day was spent trying to find a hotel.
There are 3 towns surrounding the Teotihuacán archaeological park: San Juan Teotihuacán, San Martín de las Pirámides, and San Sebastián Xolalpa — all of which have hotels on paper. The bus from Mexico City goes through San Juan Teotihuacán and ends in San Martín de las Pirámides.
However, my search for a hotel first began around San Martín de las Pirámides, but not a single place was open in that area. Next, I took a taxi to San Sebastián Xolalpa where I booked a hotel on the fly from Booking.com. As the taxi got near the address of this hotel, even the driver commented how empty, deserted, and borderline eerie the town was. The hotel was locked up when we arrived, so we left.
Looping back around to San Juan Teotihuacán, I found a great hotel to stay a few days. The town itself is pleasant, having great cafes, restaurants, and quirky shopping slanted in the way of tourists. If you’re heading for an overnight trip to Teotihuacán, I would recommend staying in San Juan Teotihuacán.
5) Mexico City, Mexico
One of the largest cities in the world, the things I’d heard about Mexico City have become more and more positive through the years. Coming from Puerto Vallarta, which is in many ways an American resort transplanted into Mexico, Mexico City provided a much more authentic introduction to the country.
Staying in Centro, the old Spanish Colonial and, before that, an Aztec center of the vast metropolitan area provided a nice spot from which to explore. Overall, it’s not a city that I felt strongly one way or the other about — but it’s undeniable that there is far too much to do in the city in only the month or so I spent there.
4) Polis, Cyprus
Among my trips out to the smaller towns in Cyprus, Polis stands out as my favorite. If Paphos is the relaxing getaway from Limassol or Nicosia, Polis is the getaway from Paphos. This small town on the northern coast is a little under an hour from Paphos with an enjoyable drive through the island’s hills along the way.
Polis was the historical center of the city-state of Marion, which was what brought me there. However, I ended up spending the remainder of the day walking around the town’s small center. Looking back, I probably should’ve stayed the night and explored a bit more of the area.
3) Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Puerto Vallarta had been suggested by a friend the year before as a possible destination when my Costa Rica visa was initially winding down. That didn’t end up happening, so the Mexican coastal city was still in my back pocket when I was looking to get out of the US winter this year. After a complicated experience the first few nights between immigration and an all-night music bar directly outside my window, I was not very keen on the city.
However, after a week or so, Puerto Vallarta began to grow on me. The setting in the Zona Romantica is pleasant to walk around, once you’re away from the loud nightlife. There is a great selection of food. While I would probably opt to try another region of Mexico on my next trip, I would certainly return to Puerto Vallarta at some point.
2) Larnaca, Cyprus
Since the division of Cyprus and the subsequent closure of the Nicosia airport, Larnaca is the main gateway into Cyprus for most visitors. The small city is the easternmost urban center on the southern part of the island and with a tourist strip along the coast called Finikoudes Beach.
Behind the beachfront is a small tangle of dense city streets filled with great restaurants, museums, travel accommodations, and a surprising amount of real estate companies. I stayed for over a week in Larnaca during my entry and exit from the country and thoroughly enjoyed each time. Still, it was no Paphos.
1) Paphos, Cyprus
I’d ended up in Cyprus — and Paphos specifically — from a random suggestion for places to spend the winter in Europe. My stay here in Paphos lasted a little over 2 months and ended up rivaling my time in Heraklion the previous year.
The city of Paphos sits near the center of Paphos district, which encompasses the entire western end of the island nation. The city is well-connected to the rest of the region by buses, the main terminal being in the tourist area of Kato Paphos.
While a large amount of Kato Paphos was still shut down in early 2022, it was still a fantastic place that I would jump at the chance to return to. The greater region is filled with charming small towns and archaeological sites dating back 4000 years. In all, I could’ve spent much longer time in Paphos and am looking forward to researching and writing more about its long history.