Four years ago I made a list of the places near and far that I most wanted to visit. At the time, I was coming out of a long student debt-induced travel lull, so I didn’t expect to cross much off the list very quickly. But I did – I lived in Senegal and I traveled to Burkina Faso, Cuba, Mexico City, and Tanzania.
That leaves a lot of places still on the list, hopefully for one day in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, other places have captured my imagination and taken precedence. Here is an update:
West Africa road trip
The itinerary hinges on visiting Ouidah for Benin’s national Fête de Vodoun on January 10 and then following the coastal road west to Accra (originally Abidjan, but I’ve scaled back my ambitions). I wanted to do the trip two years ago while I was still living in Senegal, but I couldn’t pull the plans together in time. In 2019, though, it is going to happen. I will be heading back to West Africa early in the new year (!!!), and before I start work (more on that some other time), I’ll be taking a couple weeks’ vacation to make this trip. To say the least, I am very, very excited.
Certain places pop onto the tourist radar seemingly out of nowhere, and within a matter of months they become ultra-trendy destinations. I had never really heard much about Malta, and then three years or so ago I started hearing about it everywhere, all the time. It looked and sounded highly intriguing – an island nation in the middle of the Mediterranean with cultural and aesthetic influences mingled from every direction – Western Europe, Central Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. So now I want to go.
Martinique and Guadeloupe
I’ve wanted to go to Martinique for a long time, but the airfare was always prohibitively expensive. Then a few years ago, Norwegian Air started flying roundtrip from New York to the capital, Fort-de-France, for under $250. All of a sudden Martinique was within reach. Because I became friends with a bunch of Guadeloupeans in Paris, and because by nature I am overambitious, I would like to take the ferry to Guadeloupe and spend a few days there during the same trip – which would conveniently use up all the money saved on airfare.
Due to aforementioned over-ambitiousness, I put Kenya and Tanzania together as one item on my last list, even though they are both huge and filled with things to see and do. I ended up going on safari and to Zanzibar in Tanzania a couple of years ago, but Kenya remains a dream destination and it has been since I was a little kid. I really hope to make it to at least Nairobi in the next couple of years.
Atlanta, Athens, Savannah, and Charleston
These are a holdover from my first list, again grouped as one item because that’s just what I do.
I really want to visit the pyramids and ruins around Cairo, Luxor, Alexandria, and Aswan, as well as explore old Cairo and take a boat trip down the Nile.
Jordan and Lebanon
For Beirut, Petra, the Wadi Rum desert, and all the beautiful scenery in both countries.
Poland and Ukraine
Ukraine remains on my list because I would like to see where my maternal grandmother was born. Poland joins the list because I’d like to visit Krakow and Warsaw. Since it’s close(ish) to Ukraine I may as well join them together…
Russia to China on the TransSiberian Express
To travel by train from St. Petersburg to Beijing by way of Mongolia was a dream voyage that, like my West African road trip, I planned out in great detail in 2016 before abandoning – but only for the time being. Also much like my West African road trip, I held onto those detailed plans so that one day I can pick them back up right where I left off. To wit: days 1 and 2 in St. Petersburg, days 3 through 7 traveling to and in Moscow, days 8 and 9 traveling to and in Kazan, days 10 and 11 traveling to and in Ekaterinburg, days 12 and 13 traveling to and in Novosibirsk, days 14 and 15 traveling to and in Krasnoyarsk, days 16 and 17 traveling to and in Irkutsk, days 18 and 19 traveling to and in Ulan-Ude, days 20 through 24 traveling to and in Ulaan Baatar and Terelj National Park, days 25 through 28 traveling to and in Beijing.
Mark my words: I WILL ride the TransSiberian Express one day.
Montana and Wyoming
Because of that over-ambition problem I mentioned (which, the more I think about it, may more accurately be labeled a simple case of greediness), I thought I might make it all the way to Montana or even Wyoming during the road trip I took from Portland in September. That would have required me to drive at least eight hours a day and would have left virtually no time to actually get out of my car to take in the scenery. Because that makes no sense, every time I looked at the map in the weeks before the trip, I ended up whittling away at the itinerary. What started out in my mind as a voyage from Portland all the way to Yellowstone and back, turned into a plan to get as far as Helena, before morphing into a hope to get deep into the forests of Idaho, before culminating in a conviction that I would get to Boise – on the western edge of Idaho – even if I had to drive half of each day to do it. And I did do it. It was not entirely pleasant, but not entirely torturous either.
So I know from experience that when I do finally plan a trip to Montana, I should not try to glom Wyoming onto it, and vice versa. I also know from experience that I will do exactly that anyway.
Mediterranean coast from Spain to Italy
I guess all the vacation ideas I’m most excited about at the moment are epic voyages through several different countries. This one would be both the cushiest and most expensive of the genre, as it would involve the Costa Brava, the French Riviera, Monaco, and Cinque Terra. The mere thought of it drives me wild with joy – and sadness, as I doubt I will ever be able to afford to do this in one go. I mean, I could backpack, sleep on couches and in hostels, and subsist on grocery store food for two to three weeks if I really wanted to keep costs down. But at this point in my life, I feel, what is the point of going to the most beautiful, luxurious, romantic place on earth if you are going to live like an ascetic while there? Nope, this one will wait until I have thousands of dollars to throw at it, or it will happen piecemeal over the course of the rest of my life. That actually doesn’t sound at all like a bad thing.
[Photos: Mongolia: Bernd Thaller; Benin (West Africa road trip): Linda De Volder; Malta: Berit Watkin; Martinique: Mathieu Distefano; Nairobi: Nina R; Savannah: Jack Kennard; Egypt: Dennis Jarvis; Jordan: Shelby Root; Warsaw: Dennis Jarvis; TransSiberian train: Vladimir; Montana: Jeff Wallace; Monaco (Mediterranean coast): Chris Combe]