Feeding one of the last two remaining northern white rhinos.

Even before leaving for a Southern Africa safari in September 2019, my two friends, Cynthia and Jim Lyon, and I had already booked a trip to East Africa for September 2020. All three of us love to travel, and nothing nourishes our souls more than a wildlife trip. Who knew that a global pandemic would ground us for most of 2020?

As spring wound into summer, our hopes of traveling to Kenya were quickly dimming, but we still fanned a little flame of optimism. In early July 2020, it was...

The formal gardens of Borromeo Palace overlook the lakeshore near Stresa.

Guidebooks gush about the legendary beauty of northern Italy’s Lago Maggiore.

The Michelin Green Guide’s editors award the lake three stars — worth a journey — and call it “the most famous of the Italian lakes... at times both majestic and wild.”

Especially beguiling, the guidebook continues, are the three Borromean Islands, Bella, Madre and Pescatori, which lie, locked in the lake’s blue embrace, just offshore from the Belle Époque...

We watched these horses relaxing in Lake Nicaragua as we waited for our lunch.

In pandemic mode, temporarily cut off from our travels, all that we have left to satisfy our adventurous spirits are our memories… and planning for the next trip.

As longtime friends and travel companions, we plan our own trips over several months, sometimes years, scouring blogs, asking others about their experiences and always reading everything available in ITN! We travel together about once a year to places that aren’t of interest to our other travel companions. We...

Passing the ruins of Godstow Nunnery, northwest of Oxford.

Along its banks, Henry VIII honeymooned. Grand abbeys were built and destroyed. Kings were crowned and queens beheaded. “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Wind in the Willows” were written. The Magna Carta was signed. Enduring landscapes were painted, world-class gardens were established, and over-the-top palaces were built. If not for the Thames, there would be no London.

On foot I traced it all, following a route that looked like a strand of yarn...

The Great Mosque of Djenné.

For more than a hundred years, Timbuktu (Tombouctou) has been used as a metaphor for the most isolated place in the world. Unlike the fictional Shangri-la (invented by James Hilton in his novel “Lost Horizon”), however, Timbuktu is a very real place.

A bit of history

Its reputation for faraway isolation developed during the 19th century, but it did have a golden age, based on trade and scholarship, from the 12th to the 16th centuries. The University of Timbuktu was...

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...

Map of Belize.

In November 2019, I visited Belize on a trip that concentrated on ancient civilizations and bird-watching. The trip was organized by Belize Travel Adventures (Kings land, TX; 512/913-5525, www.belizetraveladventures.com). Costing $2,820, the 7-night trip included a private guide for most excursions and the short flight from Flores, in Guatemala, to Belize. Everything worked out very well.

Settling in

I flew into Belize City from Flores — I had been touring Guatemala...

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...