Where Next? Part 1

So now that we’re back home, we can’t help but think of where we want to go next. Though we visited 24 countries on our trip, our world did not get any smaller. In fact, I think it got bigger. The more you travel, the more places you want to go.

So here are ten places that we’ve never been to that we’d love to travel next. And by next, we mean sometime in the future. They aren’t our next ten vacations (I wish!), but are instead the places that we will be considering heavily each time we find ourselves with some time and money to spare. More accurately, they’re our dream trips of-the-moment, at least in the category of places we’ve never been.

And because we’re terrible at actually ranking things, here they are, in alphabetical order.

1. Alaska
Those of us who live in the U.S. are lucky. Within our borders we have tropical rainforests and coral reefs, the world’s largest canyon, imposing mountain ranges, gorgeous beaches, active volcanoes and bubbling geysers, eye-searing deserts, ancient forests, glacier fields and polar bears! There is so much of the U.S. we want to see for the first time, go back to for the second or third or fourth time, or spend longer exploring. High on the list is Alaska, a state certainly unlike any of the others.We’d love to do a combination land/sea trip and see this crazy state from all sides.

2. Bhutan
We really, really wanted to make Bhutan a part of our trip, and were even willing to shell out the big bucks it takes to visit, but it wasn’t meant to be. We had found a company there we liked, had worked out a plan for what we’d see and do, and then couldn’t get the flights we needed. You have to enter/exit the country on their official airlines, Druk Air, and the planes are apparently pretty small. We were planning from Africa for the very end of our trip, but every seat was taken on every plane from every entry/exit point. We were offered a chance to enter overland from India but would have spent two of our expensive and precious days in transit. Not what we wanted. So we’ll have to make plans to visit the Land of the Thunder Dragon on its own, and experience the majestic beauty and well preserved culture of the land that measures its wealth in Gross National Happiness.

3. Bolivia
There were a lot of places we wanted to visit while we were in South America but just didn’t make it too. Bolivia was near the top of the list. The combination of traditional culture and landscapes like the otherworldly Salar de Uyuni make us eager to go, even if it’s as frustrating to get around as many people claim.

4. Colombia
In the U.S., you say Colombia and most people think of the FARC and drug wars, but the truth is that Colombia is now one of the U.S.’s greatest allies in Latin America, and the country has done a complete 180 since the ’80s. From the few people we’ve met who have traveled there, the raves just never seem to end. The landscape is supposed to be amazing, the people ridiculously friendly, the culture an interesting mix of Latin and African, and the food delicious. I think all the commercials we saw telling us that “The only risk is wanting to say” have totally won us over. We’re itching to go before all the gringos catch wind.

5. Ethiopia
Not being able to fit Ethiopia into our African itinerary was a major disappointment, but we knew if we were going to do it, we wanted to do it right, meaning we’d love to have something like three weeks. The only country in Africa never to be conquered, it has a unique and amazing culture. We’d love to explore the churches of Lalibela, and really just travel the country from top to bottom. Plus we’re big fans of the food.

6. Mongolia
I have this vision of Mongolia as the last frontier. It’s certainly not on the travel highway, but it’s still being quickly affected by the forces of the world, and I’d like to get there before it becomes mainstream. I’ve actually only ever met two people who have been, but both raved about it, and the adventure of it all calls to me. Though I’m not a fan of the cold, I’d be willing to pull out the long underwear to experience the steppe and meet the hardy nomadic people who call it home.

7. Morocco
Casablanca. Tangiers. Fez. Marrakech. There’s so much history, so much mystique to Morocco. It’s the type of country we love, because all you have to do is wander around and you find yourself immersed in a new world. The souks of the Medina in Fez, the medieval feel of Marrakech. Deserts, beaches, snow-capped mountains. It’s all enticing.

8. New Zealand
Australia holds basically no appeal to me, but New Zealand, that’s a whole different story. Lush rainforest, amazing waterfalls, protected landscapes, and a national love of adrenaline sports makes this a top draw for both of us. We’d love to rent a van and explore both the North and South Islands.

9. Spain & Portugal
There’s something addictive about Latin culture–the food, the dance, the music, the joie de vivre. I made a quick tour through Spain seven years ago and fell in love with it, and Jeff’s been wanting to go for years. Seville and the south is calling to us as well as Madrid and Barcelona. And then there’s always overlooked Portugal. The photos we’ve seen and stories we’ve heard, along with the friendly Portuguese we met on our travels, all leave us itching to go.

10. Turkey
I’ve wanted to go to Turkey since I taught in Greece in 2003-04. I actually had tentative plans to go but then a bombing in Istanbul upset things, and I never made it. But we’d love to see Hagia Sophia, wander through the bazaars, take a balloon ride over Cappadocia, observe the whirling dervishes, and eat delicious Mediterranean food.

Care to join us?

Three Things I Miss and Three Things I Don’t


1. Jeff
Today, Jeff started work in his lab at Duke. For the first time in a year, we’re not together all day, every day. You think that would be enough togetherness to drive anyone insane and make them long for time to themselves, but really, we have a damn good time together, and I miss him. The fact that I’m home completely alone probably doesn’t help. At least back in DC, I had my “work spouse” Jessica to chat with all day long.

2. Walking
During our travels, we pretty much walked everywhere. We walked to the grocery and to restaurants. We walked to the store. We walked to the beach. We walked through town. We walked up mountains. We walked and walked and walked. I wish I’d taken a pedometer to determine how far we walked each day because it was a lot. Now, we drive. It’s too far to walk most places, the road’s aren’t pedestrian friendly, and well, it’s just not what you do. Sure, you can go for a walk, but walking as a mode of transport is not common. We’re looking to buy a house in an area where our feet would be our main mode of getting around, but right now, the car is what we use.

3. Summer
Fall was nice at first. The crisp smell in the air, the crunch of leaves on the ground, the splendor of trees in full color. I enjoyed putting on a sweater, and not sweating while I slept. But okay, that was enough. I’m done, especially now that we’ve changed the clocks, and it gets dark so early. Winter is on its way, and I, for one, am not a fan. I want summer back.


1. The Clothes in My Backpack
The five tops and five bottoms I took with me on the trip are still in Seattle, and for all I care they can stay there forever. I love having jeans again, enough underwear to not have to do laundry every week, and clothes that actually look good together. It’s a bit overwhelming though, and I have to admit that rather than decide between the many items I have, I sometimes just put back on what I wore the day before (though I do change underwear, don’t you worry). If I could re-wear clothes in stinky, sweaty developing nations, then I can do it in clean, clean America.

2. Dirty Bathrooms
I walk into public bathrooms here and marvel at the cleanliness. There’s toilet paper, soap and running water, hand towels or dryers! Though before I’m sure I found them a bit sketchy, I’m now quite certain I could probably eat from the floors. Private bathrooms are simply phenomenal. The soap smells nice! The showers don’t require shoes! The toilets flush! We are spoiled I tell you.

3. Eating Out
When you go on vacation, one of the highlights is getting to eat out the entire trip. When you go on vacation for a year, however, that gets old really, really quickly. You get really tired of sitting at a restaurant, only getting to eat what’s on the menu, waiting for food, paying the bill, etc. You sometimes want nothing more than to open your refrigerator, pull out your favorite foods, and home cook yourself up something delicious. In South America, a lot of hostels had kitchens, and we took advantage. In Africa, these kitchens disappeared after we left South Africa, and they were pretty much non-existent in budget accommodations in Asia. Now that we have a kitchen back, we don’t want to leave it for a restaurant. I’d rather cook.

***This post also appears on Spargel. I’ll be writing about every day life over there, but I’ll cross-post entries that relate to our trip here on Lives of Wander.

Nicaraguan Style Goat Cheese

A Different Style of Goat Cheese

Place Taken: Tisey Reserve, near Esteli
Date Taken: October 27, 2008

During Nicaragua’s rainy season, the forests surrounding the city of Esteli get pretty wet. We were determined, however, not to let a little (or a lot) of rain keep us from seeing this beautiful part of the country. So we made two trips—one to the Miraflor Nature Preserve (which turned out to be a muddy disaster as we wrote about at the time) and one to the Tisey Reserve. Though the evening and night brought a lion’s share of rain, the day had breaks of sunshine, which we took advantage of, hiking up a nearby mountain for a 10-mile view and then walking to a nearby village where we were told they make excellent goat cheese.

By the time we arrived at the village our mouth was nearly watering as we thought about the creamy, white, spreadable goat cheese that we know and love. But that’s not what we found when we got to the goat farm; what we found was hard rounds of rinded cheese. We went for it anyway. It turned out that we didn’t like it as much as the creamy stuff, but it wasn’t bad. Right after we purchased it, the rain began to come, so we enjoyed the cheese with some bread while tucked away in the village general store, where the friendly owner provided us with a cutting board and knife. The rain would last the rest of our time in Tisey, but it wouldn’t ruin the trip. We could still lay in the hammock on the porch of our cabin and listen to the frogs, and that evening we met another couple also visiting the reserve. The guy was from Nicaragua, the girl from Spain, and our entire conversation was in Spanish, a major accomplishment for me as I’d just finished my first and only week of Spanish lessons.

Toothbrushes Galore!

Toothbrushes all in a row

Place Taken: Altagracia, Ometepe, Nicaragua

Date Taken: Oct 15, 2008

While visiting the Si a la Vida kids to deliver the goods we brought from the US for them, we got the “grand tour” of their facility to see how they lived. They were amazing kids with such spirit, creativity and charm. Compared to their previous lives of glue sniffing and homelessness, they must’ve thought their shared rooms and single shared sink were fantastic, but two days out of the US, it was a bit shocking to us. Their row of toothbrushes lined up on the courtyard wall next to their shared sink was emblematic of that for us and made for a really colorful picture.

Nicaragua’s Karate Kids

Karate Kids in Leon

Place Taken: Leon, Nicaragua
Date Taken: October 31, 2008

We entered a cultural center in the university town of Leon, checking out the various artworks hanging on the wall, including a very anti-American depiction of Ronald Reagan from the Contra era. We browsed through the collection of craft items for sale and read a few fliers for music and poetry events. Then we walked out the backdoor into a courtyard. As we enjoyed the little oasis, local kids began to drift in, entering a room open to the courtyard where karate lessons were about to begin. While waiting for the class to start, two of the kids wandered out in their white outfits and yellow belts and made their way over to a large, brightly colored mural on the courtyard wall. As they stared, seemingly contemplatively at the mural—a common feature throughout Leon—, we snapped their photo.

Lives of Wander Phase II

Don’t you just hate it when a website disappears or without warning no new posts appear? We do. I get attached. I then feel abandoned. But have no fear, we won’t be doing the same to you. Now that we’re back, we’re not going to have day in and day out travel tales to tell, but that doesn’t mean we have nothing to share. Lives of Wander will not fade gently into that good night.

First of all, we still have some information to share. I need to finish up our country summaries from Asia. I also need to finish our budget summaries and then write a post on the final numbers. We’ll probably throw up a review of some of the gear we took. We might do a few more “Top Ten” type lists. We’re also happy to answer any questions you readers might have. If there’s something you want to know that we haven’t answered or addressed, leave your question in the comments and we’ll get to it.

But what will happen once we’ve tied up all the lose ends? Well, we didn’t take 19,677 photos just for our own viewing pleasure. No, friends, we took them to share with you. And so far, we’ve only shared through our posts a tiny, tiny fraction of them. So over the next year, we plan to dig through the photos and share some of our favorites with you. Our idea is that we’ll post photos that correspond to where we were at the same time last year. We’ll throw up the photo and then underneath tell the “story” of that photo. Jeff seems to think that we can manage to do one a day (weekdays only); I think he fell off his rocker somewhere along the way this past year, and I’m thinking three posts a week is more realistic. You’ll have to just check back frequently to see what happens.

If that’s not enough and you just can’t bear to live without knowing what it is that we’re up to now, don’t worry. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be reviving Spargel, the personal blog I’ve kept since 2003. Our adventures in moving to NC, my attempts at being a full-time writer, and the many rants and raves that you long time readers must be missing by now, will be documented in full color. So dust off the old bookmark or add a new one and come by and say hello. We’re not disappearing on you, so please don’t go disappearing on us. We’re all friends now, and the door’s always open.