Best of the Blog 2016: The Top 10 Faves

Museum 2

After 6 years of blogging, we realize that when it comes to post popularity, there’s always the roulette effect: posts that we think will be popular aren’t, and vice versa. Well, the wheel has stopped spinning for 2016, our readers have placed their bets, and here are the 5 most popular posts for the year.

But we’re mixing it up a bit this year. Every reasonable gambler knows that the house has the advantage, so we’re making a few wagers and picking our personal top 5 posts as well.

Your Favorites

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1. Why Does Travel Make Us Smile? 5 ReasonsWe love to welcome a new year with a conversation about where we’d like to go next. Last January we started brainstorming about destinations, and soon realized we were talking more about experiences we wanted to share – not cities to notch on our belts. So we asked ourselves, “What is it about travel that makes us smile?”

Balinese Dancer

2. Bedazzling Bali. Bali is one of the most exotic destinations on earth. Whether it’s the mysterious tones of gamelan music, the sting of spicy sambal on your tongue, or the vision of graceful dancers moving with near-impossible gestures, you will be dazzled.

Bulgarian Revival House

3. Upside-down Wedding Cakes and Gossip Rooms: Bulgarian Revival HousesPlovdiv, Bulgaria was a delightful surprise for lots of reasons; one of which was the excellent collection of well-preserved mid-19th Century houses built in a style which was totally new to us.

Statue of Liberty

4. Happy Independence Day! Or If You Prefer – AmexitFrankly, we were proud of our clever play on words for this post, but what we enjoyed most was the chance to revisit our Roadside Americana series and reminisce about a few really fun road trips.

Working Donkeys

5. The Hard-Working Donkeys of SantoriniVisiting Santorini in the off season gave us an intriguing glimpse into the day-to-day challenges of renovating houses on the side of a steep cliff. The key to the whole process is donkeys!

Our Favorites


6. Wild and World Class: Plovdiv’s Street ArtStreet Art has gotten very popular, and for good reason. It’s a classic lemons-to-lemonade solution to what was, and is, a big problem in cities around the world. Plovdiv’s street art is the largest, highest quality collection that we’ve seen anywhere, and it was a joy to see and share.


7. Feasting in Bali: The Monsoon Spices It UpWe had an exciting travelers’ surprise on a stormy afternoon in Ubud, Bali when a local chef and Mother Nature transformed a simple meal into pure razzle-dazzle.


8. Hidden Hearts Around the WorldEvery February we have a Gallivance tradition: a photo safari hunting for hearts to celebrate Valentine’s Day with you … and we love the challenge of searching for the sneaky, subtle ones. This year we outdid ourselves


9. The Garden District vs. The French Quarter: A Clash of Cultures Preserved in ArchitectureOnce again, we fall back on our love of architecture. And for our money, there is no better collection of 19th Century homes anywhere in the US than New Orleans. We lived there for a couple of years and fell in love with its historic areas, but never really thought about the two very different cultures that made it happen.


10. Why Horses, Bourbon Drinkers, and Corvette Drivers Should Care More About GeologyOur tag line is “Travel Tales with a Twist.” If you visit Kentucky, hopefully, you’ll see beautiful thoroughbred horses and try a few top-shelf bourbons. And if you’re a muscle-car fan, a trip to Bowling Green will race you to Corvette heaven. But the twist in this post is geology, and it was just fun to write.

* * * * *

So, that’s it for us this year. Did we miss any of your personal faves? Just let us know! 

Happy New Year,
James & Terrielephant-driver

Photo Credits:
3. Yves Picq via Wikimedia Commons
11. via Wikimedia Commons


We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

51 thoughts

  1. One of my favorite posts of yours this year was about Plovdiv’s Bulgarian Revival Houses. Just looking at your photos made me smile at their unique beauty and want to meet the people who live Bulgaria. 2017 may well be the year of the Amexit (very clever!) but anticipating future travels should put a smile on all of our faces! Anita

    1. Anita, if your travels take you to Bulgaria, don’t miss Plovdiv. It’s charming in a low-key sort of way and for a small place, it has so much to see: historic architecture, Roman ruins, wonderful street art, and a pleasant cafe culture. We found a nice, convenient apartment in the center, and our relaxing time there made it one of our favorite cities in the Balkans. All the best to you and Richard for a wonderful 2017. ~James

  2. Wow, two Bali blog posts among your Top 10! I guess that, thanks to your photos and stories, your followers have fallen under the spell of this island and culture – almost as much as me 😉 My top pick? Your off-season in Santorini takes the cake. Happy & healthy new year to you both!

    1. Amit, you know how much we love Bali, and we’re happy to encourage travelers to put it on their list. And Santorini also fits into that category. We visited in November and the island was deserted. We aren’t beachy types, so this was perfect for us. We’d take long walks around the crater and had the place to ourselves. This is the key to visiting Santorini: plan to avoid the crowds and it will be a fabulous trip. ~James

  3. And what do you say to those who can’t choose because they’re all good posts? You guys win the prize for content and presentation. You make our day. And you seem so gosh-darn humble and nice to boot! Best wishes for a wonderful 2017!

    1. Thanks so much Rusha. We appreciate your kind words. We always try to make our posts interesting, fun, and informative, and it’s really nice to hear when someone appreciates our efforts. Appreciative readers like you keep us motivated and inspired. All the best to you and Bert for 2017! ~James

    1. Thanks so much Darlene. This is high praise indeed coming from a pro like you, and it means a lot to us. We appreciate your continuing to follow along, and wish you all the best in the coming year. ~James

  4. That’s a great collection of topics, photos and approaches to blogging! Since I am relatively new to your blog, I couldn’t pick my own favorites yet. Maybe next year? Now, I have to go and read most of the 10 faves myself! Have a fantastic New Year!

  5. I have so many favorites it would be difficult to choose just one. Thank you for taking us along this year on your travels. You have opened our eyes to regions of the world we may not have considered, and for that I am grateful. Cheers to a new year filled with adventures, good health, and lots of laughter.

    1. LuAnn I’m glad that we were able to introduce you to a few new areas, and we really appreciate your continuing to follow along. The world is getting smaller and smaller, and for avid travelers, that’s a good thing. All the best to you and Terry in the coming year: Good fun, good health, and of course, lots of travel. ~James

  6. Congrats on six years of blogging! I will reach that milestone next month and can’t believe it. I love your list of top ten and personal favorites. I see I must have missed a few and will be sure to go back and check them out. Happy New Year!

    1. Who’d a thunk Nicole: six years. We’re as surprised as you. When we started we really didn’t have many expectations beyond documenting an RTW. The blog has gotten to be a very fun, creative outlet, and somehow, if we didn’t do it, there would be a hole there. All the best to you for a wonderful 2017. ~James

  7. A very Happy New Year to you James and Terri. I always enjoy your travels, photos and humor. Looking forward to another year’s worth. Wishing the two of you the best in 2017! –Curt

    1. Thanks Curt. We know that there are lots of blogs out there, we appreciate that you continue to follow ours. All the best to you and Peggy for an exciting, healthy and fun 2017. ~James

    1. Thanks so much Alison. We know that there are lots of blogs out there, and we appreciate it that you continue to follow ours. Happy New Year, and all the best to you and Don in the coming year. ~James

    1. Sue, I like nothing better than hearing that our posts have inspired someone to visit what we consider a fabulous place. And my prediction is that when Dave is sitting on a shady veranda, with drink in hand, looking out over a impossibly green rice paddy, he’ll forget all about his reluctance and will forever fall in love with Bali. I hope you can make it soon. ~James

    1. Thanks for the comment Jenny and for dropping by the blog. You might want to give this a try. You’ll be amazed at how many heart shapes there are all around us. Have a Happy New Year! ~James

  8. My favorites are never the masses’ favorites. I enjoyed all of your 2016 posts and look forward to the next year’s submissions! Happy New Year to you both!

    1. Thanks Lexie. We sort of feel the same way, which is why this year we posted our readers’ 5 faves, as well as our personal favorites. And BTW, we know that there are tons of blogs out there, and we really appreciate it that you continue to follow ours. Happy New Year to you and all the best for an exciting, healthy, and fun 2107. ~James

  9. For some reason, I like your take on the food in places, but I never don’t like a post about Bali. Or Santorini. How did you gauge people thought were most popular? I’ve been meaning to do a year-end roundup…haven’t quite got there. I might turn it into a two-year round up as I am just approaching my two-year mark as a blogger. happy new year

    1. Thanks BF. Our end-of-year list only includes posts that were actually written in that year. We base the list on number of views and comments. These posts are usually popular and they give new readers a chance to see earlier posts that they may have missed. But of course, posts written in January have an unfair advantage over posts written in December, so that’s why we’ve started to list our personal top 5 as well. And BTW, we know there are tons of blogs out there, and we really appreciate it that you continue to follow along. Happy New Year to you as well. ~James

      1. thanks, James…I do like the idea of a round-up post. I actually didn’t know it was a “thing” to do, but recently saw a number of them. It makes sense to do it before January, also!!
        btw…there are too many blogs out there, I can’t keep up, can’t even read your stuff as much as I’d like (I still work, and then there’s the travel, and writing stuff). But your blog is a cool one, love your take on things, I get here when I can!! cheers and blessings for the new year

  10. A great little list of posts to showcase your year that was!

    I’m not sure if I have a favourite one, but I’m always interested to see what fresh angle you might take with some different destinations.

    Happy New Year!

    1. Thanks Chris. We work hard to find a new angle on destinations and we’re happy when readers notice. We know that there are lots of blogs out there and we appreciate that you continue to follow along. All the best to you for an exciting 2017. ~James

  11. I hope you’ve got your hearts lined up! It won’t be long the way things keep ticking along 🙂 I’m looking at one now that I didn’t even know I had! I might have to pinch your idea (with credit, of course 🙂 ) Wishing you both health and happiness. I can dream about Bali but I’m curious about Plovdiv so I’ll just pop over there 🙂 Sending hugs!

    1. Pinch away Jo. When you look around for heart shapes, it’s amazing how many show up. And Plovdiv should definitely be on your visit list. It’s been selected as European Capital of Culture for 2019, so you might want to go sooner rather than later, before the cat’s out of the bag. All the best to you for a fun and exciting 2017. ~James

  12. Your post on Plovdiv resulted in me adding Bulgaria to my wish list of destinations, and I was surprisingly captivated by your posts on Kentucky … since I have no interest in horses, but omg, you made them REALLY interesting (I already loved bourbon and needed no further encouragement 😉 )
    However the post on finding heart in unexpected places caught my fancy. You have a talent for discovering the small details that make a great story. This was a perfect example.

    Happy New Year, Terri and James. I wish you happy adventures and travels in the months ahead whether they take you near or far 🙂

    1. Joanne before our trip to the Balkans, we really didn’t know much about Bulgaria, but we’re really glad that we visited. We spent a few days in Sofia, which was nice, but Plovdiv had lots to offer in a smaller, more relaxed package. And it was far and away our favorite. As for the horse and heart posts, I’m sure there will be more to come. The next horse event I want to attend is one of the annual auctions, where multi-million dollar horses are up for sale. All the best for a better 2017 and Happy Trails. ~James

  13. All your posts about Bali left me bedazzled and full of wanderlust. But it is difficult to chose a favourite, I love your writing and will look forward to the 2017 tales and adventures. Happy New Year

    1. Thanks for your kind words Gilda. Hearing that someone likes our writing is music to our bloggers’ ears. Thanks so much for continuing to follow along, and all the best for an exciting New Year. ~James

  14. Yes there are some of my favourites here for sure but as with some of your other admirers, Plovdiv (a place I’d never heard of or considered) caught my attention when you posted about it. Much of it is in the engaged, enthusiastic way you embrace the world through your photos and words. All the best to you both for 2017!

    1. Thanks Carol. Plovdiv was a very pleasant city, and frankly, I’m surprised that it hasn’t gotten more attention. But, it’s been selected the European Capital of Culture for 2019 so things will change quickly I’m sure. Everyone who visits Bulgaria comes in through Sofia, and Plovdiv is close by, so it’s an easy journey. Happy New Year and have a fun and exciting 2017. ~James

  15. I love this idea of favorite posts for the year. Great concept. I have enjoyed every post of yours that I have read but am looking forward to checkng out some of your and crowd favorites! Very smart…


    1. Thanks much Peta. We enjoy doing these year-end wrap ups. It gives us a chance to consider what has worked and what hasn’t, as well as it gives new readers a chance to see some of our older posts. ~James

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