To say pulling this list together has been challenging would be an understatement, but around 2 a.m. this morning when my night owl mind was awake and busy making plans (to the consternation of my exhausted body), I realized why the list was so difficult – there are too many places I want to go this year and only 365 days in which to get there.
Fortunately, I have a solution so this list is going to be a bit different to My 2012 Travel Wish List. It isn’t about places, it’s about journeys, experiences and adventures. I suspect I will only be able to tick one off this year (or maybe 2!), but the fun part will be choosing which one(s).
1. Couch surfing from coast to coast: USAI have to confess that while I have been to the US many times, it has always been to the coasts: New York, LA, Washington, etc. There are countless cities, states and small towns that exist in between that I’d love to visit but I’ve always put the US low down on my travel list because it doesn’t present much of a travel challenge: I know the language, the culture shock levels are low, the toilets flush, the water is drinkable and the transport options are excellent (flights, buses, trains and car hire are all high quality choices).
After spending time in Hawaii I came to meet a lot of American folk and not just those who reside in the cosmopolitan coastal cities, and it made me want to discover this vast land more. The question was how to make travel in the USA challenging enough to be exciting. My solution: see the ‘interior’, travel by land and stay only with the locals. If I make it to the USA this year, my adventure will be as much about how I travel as where I go (though New Orleans has been on my travel wish list for quite some time).
2. Inter-railing: EuropeEurope may be on my doorstep but I have traveled to a relatively small part of it compared to other regions in the world and while I’m currently in England, the call from the countries across the Channel is stronger than ever. I have passed over the option of a Euro trip because of its proximity to my home country, which means I can surely do Europe whenever I want, and preferably some time in retirement when I have not much else to do? As true as that is in theory, the reality is that it could take me from now until retirement if I choose to see Europe by a series of long-weekends. With that reality in mind, I started to think more about a Euro trip.
I recently wrote an article about Europe’s low-cost airlines and how it is generally more economic to get around by air, but the reality is that spending hours at airports is little fun. One of my favorite trips that I mention over and over is my 18-hour jaunt from Barcelona to Rome by boat. If I visit Europe this year, it will be by land, starting from London St. Pancras on the Eurostar with the aim of reaching the furthest eastern point.
3. Island hopping: The CaribbeanI always had in my mind that the Hawaiian islands were the preserve of honeymooners and travelers who came in a pair, but it turned out not to be the case and it made me wonder if the same is true of the Caribbean. Hawaii had more for backpackers than I thought (hostels and not bad public transport on some islands) and while I suspect this is not true of the Caribbean, I would love to explore the islands from an indie travel perspective and see if it can be done on any kind of budget without falling over couples with every barefoot step I take.
4. Exploring a new continent: AfricaOk, I have been to north Africa so can’t say I’ve never stepped foot on this continent, but Africa is so huge that it has confounded me with too many potential travel options. In true style, I want to go everywhere. Now. Except put a map in front of me and I couldn’t readily point out the safe areas from the danger zones (perhaps with the exception of the Democratic Republic of Congo), nor identify the ten places I want to go to the most. And this is what makes Africa exciting to me. There is so much I don’t know, so much I want to know and after spending time with a documentary maker who had spent months filming in Senegal, I’ve been inspired to visit Africa.
5. Filling in the gaps: AsiaIf there is only one place I do go this year, it has to be Japan. Yes, it was on My 2012 Travel Wish List and I didn’t make it but I’m still desperate to visit this county. Japan had been on my round the world itinerary in 2010/11 but sadly the tsunami hit only weeks before my intended travel date and all I got to see was an airport hotel at Naria. I have had the Lonely Planet guide sat unopened for 2 years and it’s spine is still crease free. This year I plan to visit to see the cherry blossom and make good on my original plan.
Which brings me nicely to the idea of taking an extended trip in Asia. I will already be east so it makes sense to continue my journey and fill in the gaps of the places I’ve not been – Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Burma (Myanmar), Bhutan…Asia still has a lot to offer if I’m searching for new adventures.
6. The Trans Siberian: Russia to ChinaWhich long-term traveler doesn’t want to take this famous rail journey? Whether I hop from Japan to China and head homewards on this rail route or take an extended trip from inter-railing through Europe on to the Trans Siberian, the options are open. My only requirements: i) try to book like the locals (I’ve heard in passing there are tourist tickets that are inflated to react to the popularity of this route), and ii) not do this trip in winter! The only thing to think about then is where to explore in China (it would be my second trip but this time I’d have to see the pandas in Chengdu) and Russia. This would definitely be an exciting trip and one I’ve thought about for a long time.
7. Picking through a war zone: The Middle East
This is more of a pipe dream that a likelihood, but I’ve put it on the list anyway. The dream isn’t to visit a war zone – that would be madness. What I really want to do is visit those countries in the Middle East that were on my 2011 itinerary before the Arab Spring sent serious civil unrest throughout the region. Libya and Syria were on my list. I’d also be interested to see Iran, but as all of those locations are currently on the UK Government’s ‘do not travel’ list, calm would need to be restored before I go there. Sadly, I don’t see that as likely in the immediate future, even though I hope for resolution even if just for the sake of the people who live there.
8. The Wild Card: AnywhereFor reasons so dull I won’t go into, I need to be in the UK at the end of February and it has kind of scuppered my travel plans this year. At a time I would usually be away from Europe i.e. winter, I’m going to be firmly on frost-bitten soil and it put the dampeners on a wonderful opportunity to house sit in the wine region of South Africa. It did, however, give me pause for thought – what if, instead of making travel plans, I make none whatsoever.
Two options come to mind. The first is to find another house sitting opportunity for a few months and let the available jobs determine my location. The other option is to fulfill a long term dream of being that person who turns up at the airport and takes the next flight out. It’s something I’ve always thought of doing and while I’d want to put some parameters in place (how disappointed would I be to get to Heathrow and find the next flight is to the Democratic Republic of Congo), this wild card style of travel seems pretty exciting to me.
Well, that is a lot of travel possibilities to chew over. I’ll let you know how I get on. Do let me know if you’ve made you’re own list – I’m always searching for new inspiration.
Happy Travels for 2013!