Houseboats on Dal Lake.

Some opportunities present themselves once in a lifetime. When the invitation arrived for me to visit my dear friend Hilal, whom I met years ago in Delhi, and his family in Srinagar, India, in November 2019, without blinking an eye, I jumped at the opportunity. 

Often referred to as “paradise on Earth,” Srinagar is the largest city of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, nestled below the snowcapped Himalayas in northwest India. A main attraction there is the luxurious houseboats that can be found along the shores of the lakes Dal and Nageen.

Starting in...

An idyllic, peaceful scene — palm-tree shade, white sand and the turquoise ocean.

Our granddaughter and her family serve as missionaries in Ethiopia, a very long way away. Their internet is unreliable and communication is spotty. Letters and packages mailed to them take weeks, months or never reach them at all. So we came up with a plan for the whole family to spend two weeks together.

The Beach House (Casurina Rd., Mayunga; email the owner, Rory Keegan, at rory_keegan@yahoo.com or visit www.airbnb.com/rooms/14374825), located near the little village of Malindi on the Indian Ocean coast of Kenya, had everything we wanted.

Making plans

Planning the...

This expansive view was seen from a high vantage point on one of our hikes.

Though our November 2019 tour would be the first time that Road Scholar offered a hiking trip in Japan, their local partner, Walk Japan, was an expert at this type of trip. Offering a great hiking experience on clean, well-maintained trails through fields with lovely vegetable gardens and terraced rice paddies, forests, streams and waterfalls, the journey was planned to take in the fall colors, and they were near their peak, with bright-red and salmon-pink maples, bright-yellow ginkgos and evergreens.

Pre-trip materials described the path conditions and the elevation gain for each...

The stunningly designed Bodegas Ysios in Laguardia.

My husband, Michael, and I were headed back to Spain in early September 2019. This time, friends Jane and Paul (J&P) would be joining us for part of the trip. J&P had never been to Spain, so here are some of the things we did to make sure we all would still be friends when we returned.

Some ground rules We planned to rent apartments in San Sebastián and Barcelona and reserve a hotel in Laguardia, so we asked J&P how they wanted to be involved with the accommodation decisions. They asked us to do the research and give them our final three choices to discuss and decide on...

The harbor of Santo António, Príncipe.

We’re all eager for the pandemic to end so we can start roaming the globe again, and, undoubtedly, we’ve all been making plans in our heads while we’ve been cooped up. If those plans involve travel to the Iberian Peninsula, here’s a wild idea: why not celebrate getting out of stir by going a little farther, to paradise?

After a May 2019 stay in Portugal, I tagged on a 10-day solo visit to what has become my personal paradise, the 2-island nation of São Tomé & Príncipe (STP), Africa’s second-smallest country.

And it’s easier to reach...

View of the Grand Harbour of Valletta, Malta, as seen from the battlement.

My husband, Phil, and I are proud 30-plus-year ITN subscribers and ITN Quarto Mondo award recipients, having now been to well over one quarter of the world’s nations. While traveling, our primary interests are ancient cultures, architecture, art and religions, and we used to plan all our own trips, including arranging our own transportation.

Due to our advancing age, however, we’ve become fans of cruising as a means of accessing destinations of special interest to us. We’ve now been on four Viking ocean cruises and two river cruises, and they’ve been great....

Whooper swans in Lake Kussharo.

Winter is the best time to see some of Japan’s iconic wildlife, including red-crowned cranes, Blakiston’s fish owls and sea eagles in the northernmost island of Hokkaido, and snow monkeys, south of Tokyo, on the island of Honshu. In March 2019, an opportunity to see this wildlife for ourselves came when my wife, Norma, and I signed up for a 7-day tour, “Winter Birding and Bird Photography in Japan,” with Gunnar Engblom, guide and owner of Kolibri Expeditions (Lima, Peru; kolibriexp@gmail.com, kolibriexpeditions.com).

The adventure begins

Our alarm went...

Enjoying the “world’s best” gelato in San Gimignano.

My wife, Marina, and I took a 2-week vacation to Tuscany in April 2018 and did the whole trip without a car. We wanted to avoid Italian roads and drivers and parking hassles in medieval towns, so we decided to "go green" with public transportation, using Italy's excellent train and bus system supplemented by the occasional taxi.

We started to prepare a year in advance, planning to use airline rewards for our round-trip flights to Rome. We wanted to stay in monasteries or convents for a more authentically Italian experience.

Our chosen destinations offered...