Photo by Shandi-lee.
I’ve been pretty anxious about writing this list. Strange, I know, because this is MY list and I can put whatever the hell I want on it so there shouldn’t be any anxiety involved, right? Yet, I’ve drafted, re-drafted, deleted, hit myself on the head, scrabbled through my trash bin (on my Mac, not actually) and re-drafted again.
It’s been an unusual process and quite unlike previous years.
As a child I used to spend hours flicking through the toy section of the home shopping catalogues to compile my list for Santa (hey, I’m not a Millenial so there were no Amazon wish lists for me). Nowadays, a map has become my replacement and I find no greater indulgence than flicking through an atlas (or rather the National Geographic atlas app – I’ve happily adapted to the Millenial world) to find travel inspiration.
When I craft the lists I never know how reality will stack up – usually somewhere between hitting a few destinations on the list and hitting a few that aren’t. The perfect balance of planned and spontaneous.
Dealing with a travel funk
So, what’s been different this year? Well, to start with I’ve been in a bit of a funk…quite a major one actually, that involved a serious case of travel burn out and a complete lack of travel inspiration. Apart from a good handful of smaller trips, I’ve not yet re-packed my bag for long-term travel and…I’m a little afraid of what will happen when I do. I’m worried that travel burn out will strike again and I’ll once again find myself lying on my bed in a windowless room failing at candy crush and wishing the world would just f*ck off.
And this fear has had a significant impact on my clarity. Every time I think about putting a destination on my list, I wonder if it will be exciting enough to keep the travel blues away. And because I’m never sure (how can I be, absent the wonderful skill of seeing the future), the page of my travel wish list has remained somewhat blank.
It doesn’t help that my travel thoughts have been extreme – a few weeks ago I was contemplating becoming an expat for a year somewhere warm (Mexico was in the lead) where I could focus on my work. A week later I was plotting another epic around the world trip. It was no use, I was no further forward and fast running out of answers for family and friends who were used to me bombarding them with details of my upcoming plans.
With the new year approaching I was panicking. I didn’t have even a broad outline, let alone a flight booked (actually, still don’t). If I wasn’t careful, 2014 would pass me by and I’d never leave the UK – which would be a tragedy all in itself given I no longer have a fixed base here.
Embracing failure and finding travel inspiration again
Then 3 things happened:
1. 2013 ended, phew! As you know, it was my worst travel year yet and I was incredibly relieved when it was over. There’s nothing like a New Year to release you of your old worries and inject a good boost of motivation.
2. I remembered it’s ok to fail. During the height of my travel burn out last year, I decided to spend a week aiming to fail at everything. I did incredibly well at it. I missed buses, I stayed in bed late, I didn’t clamber over people to be the first at seeing the sights. I celebrated my general rubbishness as a bad traveller and not only did it feel good by removing the pressure I’d placed on myself to enjoy every location to its max, I started to explore places in different ways, which was rewarding all on its own.
3. I looked back over my botched lists and found something magical contained within – genuine, unforced excitement. My past travel wish list drafts were not quite right, but looking at them with fresh eyes, I knew which places made me smile with anticipation. I’d found travel inspiration again.
And so, it has happened. I have completed my list. The emotional journey to get here seems like a trip all of its own, but its a process that has spat me out in the right place – with some exciting travel hopes for this new year.
My Travel Wish List for 2014
One of my most enjoyable travel experiences was the three months I spent living in a cave in the Loire Valley. Yes, it was colder than hell (after the boiler broke), but it was an opportunity to live in a different country and experience the detail that can be missed when you’re constantly moving. I established a great (and fundamentally essential) relationship with the village baker and became a regular at the bar tabac where a Friday afternoon of coffee would commonly segue into an early evening beer. It was nice to have a routine for a while and seize the work momentum that the New Year commonly brings.
And I’d like to do this again. Except this time I want to live for a little while in Spain. It will be great to practice my (limited) Spanish and the idea of heading to the south coast which is a marked 10 degrees warmer than the UK and holds the promise of seeing the sun before April, is a soothing thought. It’s how I hope to spend the first few months of the year (after I complete my photography course in London at the end of this month).
I’ve been to Germany a couple of times (Frankfurt and Munich), but never to Berlin. I don’t know how this gap on my travel resume could have happened. In 2014 I plan to fix it.
3. The South of the USA
Travel inspiration can come in many forms – books, films, magazines, photographs and videos but most often it is the tales of other people’s trips that inspire me the most. Almost two years ago, parents of a good friend were approaching the impressive yet scary age of 70. They are a couple who I have a huge amount of respect for, not least because they have spent their entire lives living in different countries, travelling the world and tracking down excellent beef and wine along the way. They inspire me to continue to travel every time I see them.
I was secretly saddened to hear that they’d decided to take one last trans-atlantic trip before slowing things down a bit and travelling closer to home in Europe. Insurance was getting expensive with the change to a different age bracket and energy levels weren’t what they used to be (according to them – not something I’ve ever personally witnessed from the pair!).
The last trip was to be to the South of America including New Orleans. It was a place I’d wanted to visit for a long time but somewhere that never made it to the top of my list. The couple went on their adventure and that single trip had the power to make them reconsider their future travel plans. New Orleans in particular gave them such a re-injection of wanderlust that they returned to the USA a year later and they seem to have no plans of stopping. There are myriad reasons I want to visit America’s south but the trip tales from this couple are most compelling of all.
Dear Colombia, you have been on my travel wish list since 2012. I have failed you and while I have accepted that failure is fine, you look too beautiful to fail to visit for another year.
5. Latin America
Helen in Wonderlust recently wrote about how her soul longs for Africa. I feel that way about Latin America. It was my first big stop on my around the world adventure in 2010. It provided culture shock, a language barrier, climates I’d never thought could exist in one continent and people…oh the very, very amazing people. I fell in love with Latin America and it’s one of those places that can make me smile just by thinking about it. I’ve been trying to challenge myself to visit new countries these past few years but sometimes you just need to go back to a place you love.
And that’s it. My past lists have been longer. But who cares? This is the list that excites me. This is the list that makes me want to pack my bag and fun head first into 2014. This is the list that makes me stare travel burn out in the face and scream “come and get me…if you can”.
Do you have a travel wish list for 2014? Are any of these places on your dream destination list?