It's a scenario many have dreamed about but never dared turn into reality: Stacie Flinner and her husband, David, ended their lease, put their possessions in storage, and embarked on a bucket list adventure around the world. The duo saw more countries in just over a year than many see in their lifetime. They soaked up the sun in Greece, stalked cheetahs in South Africa, and marveled at ornate palaces in India.
"I'm an interior decorator and love entertaining at home, so I anticipated being homesick, but David and I were both surprised by how quickly we found our groove and really liked being on the road," Flinner tells us. When asked why they didn't consider multiple shorter trips, like most do, the true romance emerges. "I am an old soul, and there's a romance to long voyages that I just couldn't conjure during shorter trips. I love the great voyages of the last few centuries when ladies traveled with trunks and transportation was slower—by boat, by train—and it could take months to reach a destination."
Thankfully, the pair didn't have to spend months in transit—in just one year, they zigzagged the globe, visiting no less than 60 countries. Now that the adventure has come to an end, we tapped Flinner to find out about her favorites. Of the jaw-dropping destinations they visited, which are the ones they're eager to return to? Here's what she told us.
"We visited Buenos Aires, Mendoza's wine country, and Patagonia, but my favorite memory from our five weeks in Argentina is from a weekend we spent learning to play polo in Orense, a small town seven hours south of Buenos Aires. A friend introduced us to Edgardo Llambi, a professional polo player who taught us how to ride and play polo at the farm where he trains his horses. In the evenings, we’d join the stable boys for a traditional asado (Argentine BBQ) and wine under the stars."
"When visiting the Okavango Delta for a safari, your lodge will be your entire experience, as most are quite remote and only accessible by bush plane—so choose wisely! We stayed at two Sanctuary Retreats' camps and can't wait to return to Chiefs Camp during the wet season to experience the delta when it floods. Chief's Camp stood out for its incredible food, elegant contemporary safari décor, and our very talented guide named Sky. Botswana is still relatively off the beaten track, and many of our game drives made us feel like we were early explorers discovering the delta for the first time."
Luang Prabang, Laos
"Laos was formerly a French colony, and Luang Prabang was the administrative seat for the region, so the tiny town is a wonderful multicultural destination where glittering Buddhist temples stand alongside French-style homes with white walls and pastel shutters you'd expect in Provence! I always gravitate to properties with historic significance and loved 3 Nagas, which is composed of three buildings protected by UNESCO, one of which used to house the town hall and another was formerly a 100-year-old ice cream parlor. Each morning about 200 monks walk along the main street in an alms-giving ceremony, gathering their daily meals from the community. They walked right past our hotel, and we could watch the ceremony unfold from our balcony, coffee in hand.
"In addition to a plethora of affordable hotels and cafes, many of Luang Prabang’s main attractions are free, including visiting the 30+ gilt Buddhist temples, wandering the nightly crafts market, swimming in the turquoise waters of Kuang Si falls, and sunrises from the top of Mount Phousi in the center of town. What you will empty your pockets for is the stunning Lao textiles, many of which are handmade nearby and rendered in the softest cotton and silks."
"We only spent one day in Cairo on a layover between Kuwait and Morocco but were able to visit the top three spots on my wish list in the little time we had: the Great Pyramids and Sphinx of Giza, Khan el-Khalili (believed to be the oldest open-air market in the Middle East), and the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities. There is something special about visiting iconic destinations that you've heard of all your life—places that though ancient, dazzle and mystify visitors today. I’d like to return for a longer spell for a tour with an archeologist to absorb Egypt's history in detail.
"The Pyramids were impressive but the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo was a surprising favorite. They are currently in the process of building a new museum to house the artifacts, and the current space is a bit neglected. We were two of 15 visitors while we were there, giving us the feeling that we were wandering the museum after hours, like a scene from Night in the Museum. Many of the artifacts are casually leaning against the wall or piled on a pedestal, as if we were discovering a forgotten tomb for the first time."
"We visited both Santorini and Paros and loved Paros the most. On Paros, you get the sparkling blue skies and water, whitewashed homes, and blue domed Greek Orthodox churches—without the crowds. We rented an Airbnb in the village of Lefkes and loved that we only heard Greek spoken throughout the day. You can also wander the port town of Naoussa during the afternoon and have it almost entirely to yourself - while the rest of the town is either at the beach or taking an afternoon nap. At 6 p.m., everyone congregates in the waterfront restaurants creating a buzzy atmosphere. Santorini is certainly beautiful, but I'd strongly recommend visiting on a shoulder season."
Planning your own bucket list adventure? This winter wonderland should be on your itinerary.