One year I bought the 1000 Places to See Before You Die calendar. Imagine my disappointment to find that amongst the twelve featured destinations that year were the entire nation of Costa Rica (something tells me some parts can be missed), The Cabot Trail in Newfoundland (huh?) and both Route 66 and South Carolina’s “Low Country”. It also included such “safely” touristic choices as Tuscany’s hill towns, the French Riviera and the castles of Germany. While I’m not going to complain if I happen across a nice Gothic castle or have to tour a vineyard, those aren’t the kind of travel experiences that I get excited about. As I noted earlier I’m hoping to take A Very Special Holiday in the summer of 2015 (after I finish grad school). What kind of possible destinations keep me motivated to save money, you ask?
5. Central Asia
A few years ago I met a child from Moldova, a country I knew very little about, and the next summer I found myself in Moldova. The next year I met a child from Uzbekistan, and just assumed that Central Asia would be my next stop, but it hasn’t happened. I don’t know much about this part of the world, aside from what I read in The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, and what I saw on the No Reservations episode where Anthony Bourdain goes to Tashkent. Wait! That’s not true! I’m pretty sure that on an episode of The Amazing Race they went to Turkmenistan and gave middle-aged men petroleum baths. Count me in!
4. West Africa
In high school French we had to do a project on Francophone nations around the world, and this opened my eyes to West Africa, an area I hadn’t thought much about before. I still don’t know much about the area, though prolific travel writer Jeffrey Tayler touched on nearby Niger in Angry Wind: Through Muslim Black Africa by Truck, Bus, Boat, and Camel. However, actually visiting this part of the world seems like a much better way to learn about it than endless Googling, wouldn’t you say?
Oh, high school. So many of my travel obsessions originated there, twelve years ago! In my penultimate semester of high school I found that I had already achieved far more than the minimum number of credits required for graduation, and my timetable was filled with “spare” periods. Since I took the bus to school and couldn’t just leave during that time, I decided to fill part of my boring day with a new class- Japanese. My class was full of kids obsessed with Sailor Moon and other comics, but I was much more interested in the food (tofu! soba noodles! seaweed! miso!), fashion and beauty treatments I saw in Japanese fashion magazines. Onsen, here I come!
2. The Trans-Mongolian Express
Having already been to blast-from-the-past Transnistria, which I’ve heard is pretty much what Soviet Russia was like, I still want to cross that huge country, and its neighbours, by train. No, the Woody Harrelson thriller Transsiberian didn’t turn me off- I want to eat my own loaves of rye bread and foraged berries in a smelly train carriage next to men drinking vodka and singing songs long into the night. (Well actually I’d really appreciate quite after 9:00 pm, but I’m sure we can work something out.) My dream is to start in Moscow on the Trans-Siberian and make my way to Ulan Ude, then jump onto a Chinese train to Beijing. Along the way I’d stop in cities I’ve always dreamed about- Perm, Omsk, Irkutsk, Ulaanbaatar- and from there explore neighbouring towns and cities that have never had a twenty-something Canadian girl walk their streets before.
1. The Pantanal
Don’t even talk to me about The Pantanal. Ever since I saw a documentary about this tropical wetland in Brazil (and Bolivia and Paraguay) I’ve been enamoured. I don’t care if I see a jaguar- my dream is to pet the world’s largest rodent- a capybara. I will get vaccinated to hell and back if it means I can reach out and pet one of these creatures, which look like beavers on steroids. Sure, spotting a macaw, or an anteater, or a tapir, would be cool, but I’ve got my heart set on capybaras. Interestingly, the best time to see wildlife is apparently during the dry season, which corresponds perfectly to the time I’m available to travel in 2015. Hmmmm…
I am not a photo thief! All photos are Creative Commons licensed from photographers on Flickr!