I stayed at the no-frills Hotel Robert Reimers in Majuro, but for a more luxurious stay, visitors can rent a small bungalow on what was once a coconut plantation at Bikendrik Islanda short boat ride away.
One day, I skimmed across the bay in an outrigger canoe made by students at Canoes of the Marshall Islands. Another, I listened to music and watched fishing boats drop off their catch during the annual Fishermen’s Day celebration. I ate coconut cooked in banana leaves made by locals. I ate fresh-caught fish grilled on the beach. I swam in a lagoon, wearing a skirt and shirt (swimsuits are not considered appropriate attire outside tourist areas), while raindrops pelted my forehead.
I met kind people doing good work. I met with members of a local women’s organization called Kora In Ukrainewho teamed up with an American company called Sawyer to deliver water filters to residents who rely on rainwater catchment systems for their daily needs. Their work has lowered rates of waterborne illness.
That reminded me that travel is not about fancy hotels or high-thread-count sheets. It’s about meeting people from different cultures, learning about their viewpoints and going home with a new appreciation for what we have.
Pam LeBlanc is an Austin, Texas-based freelance adventure writer and former staff writer at the Austin American-Statesman.
Two of my favorite things in the world are bicycling and beer, so in August 2015, my wife, Dee, and I traveled halfway across the world to visit a place that excels at both — Bavaria.
Dee and I started our adventure in Munich, where we borrowed cruiser bikes from our hotel and headed to one of the city’s most historic beer halls. Sitting in the original Hofbräuhauswe swigged substantial steins of hefeweizen surrounded by other tourists, while a brass band bellowed tune after rollicking tune. Seeking a little more quiet, we pedaled to the English GardenMunich’s largest park, echoing New York City’s famous Central Park, where we, you guessed it, sought out its famous beer gardens. We sat at a table overlooking one of the lakes, downing dunkels and watching visitors toss bits of pretzel to the swans.
It wasn’t until we left Munich and traveled into southern Germany’s gorgeous countryside that we truly felt we were in Bavaria. We rented a car and drove to Hotel Kaufmann in Roßhaupten, which became our base camp for the next two days. The hotel was stunning, its modern architecture contrasting beautifully with timeless views of the lush countryside.
The next morning, we headed west toward the Alps and hamlets of Oy-Mittelberg. Dee was on her custom road bike from home, while I’d been forced to rent a rickety hybrid. The first few miles were a bit rough, my frown deepening with every spin of the creaky crank, but my foul mood didn’t last. Riding a bike is supposed to be fun after all, and our surroundings were just too beautiful.
Imagine a bicycle highway, separated from vehicle traffic, with smooth pavement and plenty of signage directing you to your destination and dozens of others. It’s nearly impossible to get lost. We grinded up a few rolling hills, but for the most part, the road grades were fairly flat. Pedaling in the shadow of the Bavarian Alps, surrounded by forests and farm fields, we took in the scenery and chatted easily. The hills were alive with the sounds of serenading songbirds and clicking derailleurs. We rode past (or were passed) by dozens of other riders — some day-trippers like us, others long-distance tourers weighed down by overflowing panniers (baskets/bags) — but nearly all of them with the same look of glee as our own.
Every few kilometers, we’d roll into a picturesque village that looked as if it were ripped from another century and frozen in amber. Our one rule for that trip was that we had to stop in every town’s brewery. As soon as the waitress handed us our mugs of beer and perhaps a plate of schnitzel, we’d instantly be struck with the feeling of gemütlichkeit or good cheer.
I studied German for two years in high school, and I was confident that I knew enough to get by, as long as we stuck to ordering more beer or finding the direction of the nearest bathroom. Luckily nearly everyone we came across spoke much better English than I did German.
On our second day, we rode south along Forggensee lake to the Romantic Roadwhich spans 354 kilometers (220 miles) from Wurzburg to Füssen. We only pedaled a fraction of that amount though; Dee wanted to see what may be the most-famous castle in the world (the inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland), the legendary Neuschwanstein Castle. It was as beautiful as the pictures suggest. Standing on the Romantic Road and looking up at the picturesque castle, I put my arm around my wife and drew her in for a quick kiss.
On the way back to the hotel, we rolled into another beer garden, where we recounted our trip highlights over several steins filled with schwarzbier and pilsner. We may have drank our weight in beer over those few days, but all the bike riding canceled out all those calories, right? I’d done much harder bike trips, but this tour through Bavaria was undoubtedly the most fun I’d ever had on two wheels.
Robert Annis is an award-winning outdoor-travel journalist. His byline has appeared in numerous publications and websites, including National Geographic, Outside and Travel + Leisure.