Travel in 2022
As this year comes to an end, the most surprising thing was the number of surprises (both bad and good). The pandemic (at least as far as travel is concerned) finally turned the corner from being an ever present threat and annoyance to a mostly a non-issue. Only my first trip of the year (back in February) still required the barrage of PCR tests and vaccination certificates. After that, literally every country that I entered no longer cared about any of it, and I waltzed past passport control with little more than my N95 mask. That was definitely the best surprise.
The bad surprises came from the most unexpected places. My first trip of the year was supposed to be Algeria, but they literally couldn't get their act together to issue a tourist visa in time for my departure, so I ended up going to France as a very last minute substitution. Which lead to a pleasant surprise of having one of the most amazing culinary trips I've ever done. The second bad surprise was my literal wreck in the Mozambique bush, where I had to sleep on the ground and hike out to rescue myself, the truck and the entire trip.
Despite those issues, it was still a damn good year of travel. I visited 6 new countries in 2022, France (twice, because why not), Saudi Arabia, eSwatini, Mozambique, Malawi and Chad. This brought my lifetime country count up to 65. Africa and Europe remain tied at 9 entries, and Asia hit 21 entries. I'm now at 21 African, 13 European, and 20 Asian countries.
Including the failure Algerian visa attempt, I needed to mail out my passport a total of three times (Mozambique and Chad were the other two). Chad was super easy, Mozambique almost turned into another Algeria.
I never planned it this way, but both trips to France were fairly short notice events. The first was the Algerian substitution, but the last was a "hey let's go to Europe around Christmas time", such that France was my first and last country of the year.
I flew relatively few airlines this year. It was literally just Air France and Qatar Air. Qatar won by a huge margin in terms of over all experience and quality. Air France is honest a fairly mediocre airline. It seems that a large part of their business model depends on the insane popularity of tourism going to France, and their colonial legacy in other parts of the world (mostly west and central Africa).
If I had to pick a best/worst trip of the year, the top prize would likely go to Chad. While Chad is by no means a tourist destination, it was unique, and spectacular in its own Saharan way, and it checked a ton of my travel boxes. Worst trip was sadly the southeast Africa trip, solely due all of the chaos and suffering that I subjected myself to on their so-called "roads". It might have been a very different trip experience had I not made so many bad driving choices.
As always, I have big travel plans for the coming year (2023). This will likely include some new records for visa applications, and I will hopefully have made it to more than half the nations in Africa.