Where Next? Part 2

In our earlier post, Where Next? Part 1, we laid out the places we have never been that we’d like to go. In this, Part 2, we give you a look at sites that are located in countries that we visited but that we weren’t able to make it to for whatever reason. In some instances, it was because we were there at the wrong time of the year to do whatever it was we wanted to do. In other instances, the site was so popular that you had to make plans to visit it much farther in advance than we did. In still other cases, costs or logistics made a visit impossible. They were places that caught our imaginations at the time we were in country and that have stayed with us long after we left. Here, in no particular order, are six sites that will have us returning to one of the 24 countries we visited on our round-the-world trip, hopefully sooner rather than later.

1. Dive Sipadan, Malaysia
After getting our SCUBA certification just before our trip to Borneo, I was anxious to dive into what is supposed to be one of the world’s best dive sites. We heard amazing stories of huge schools of barracuda, 30 + turtles in one dive spot, and sharks galore. Unfortunately, we were there at the peak of the high season, and though we were flexible with date and time, we couldn’t find a single dive operator with an opening. Apparently they’d been booked up 6 months in advance. So looks like we’ll have to go back and see the underworld wonders of Borneo. Maybe it’s for the best. We heard it can be a more challenging dive site, and as beginners we might not have got to experience the full extent of the magic.

2. Witness the Great Migration, Serengeti/Masai Mara
Is there anyone out there who doesn’t want to see this? We love going on safari, and I can imagine the thrill is only upped by the sight of the huge herds of migrating wildebeests fighting for their lives against stalking lions and hungry crocodiles. Plus the Serengeti has a certain romance to it, the wide plains dotted with flat-topped acacia trees. Our timing wasn’t right this trip to witness this magnificent event, so we’ll have to return. Maybe if I win the lottery I’ll splurge on a fancy camp. Otherwise, I’ll just rough it like we usually do. Either way, I’m certain it will be awesome.

3. Drive the Skeleton Coast, Namibia
The landscapes we saw in Namibia were simply mindblowing, but we hear they’re completely unearthly along the Skeleton Coast. You need a 4WD to venture here, however, and we were in a little Kia, so it was forbidden territory for us. Namibia is high on my return list, and next time I’ll definitely get the fully kitted out camping car. Then we’ll be able to venture up the Skeleton Coast, meeting locals who still live in very traditional ways, gawking at the rugged coast, and maybe spotting one of those rare desert elephants that we hear hang out there.

4. Explore the Kalahari, South Africa/Botswana
Like the Skeleton Coast, the Kalahari (well, hell, most of Botswana) is 4WD territory. It’s also territory for the tough and self-reliant. The Kalahari is a whole lot of nothing according to some, a whole lot of beauty according to others. I recently read an article on traveling through the Kalahari, and the photos blew my mind. Some really amazing and interesting people, as well as animals, have learned to survive here, and I think encountering them would be pretty darn cool.

5. Hike the Cordillera Blanca, Peru
After hiking the Inca Trail, our legs weren’t exactly thrilled about the idea of another long, hard hike at high altitude, and the extremely rainy weather hitting the area while we were there sealed the deal: no Cordillera Blanca for us. But we only crossed it off the list temporarily. We both really love to hike, especially in terrain that is as lush and breathtaking (literally and figuratively) as that of the Cordillera Blanca. There’s a whole slew of trails that cross through these northern Peruvian mountains, and we’re not sure which trek we’d chose, though I think we’re looking for a road a bit less traveled. And when we do make it back to Peru, I think we’ll also fly south, as we didn’t make it to Arequipa or Colca Canyon either.

6. Taste the Wine in Mendoza, Argentina
Abundant and delicious steak, ice cream, and wine. What’s not to love about Argentina? While we got our fair share of all of them during our six weeks or so in the country, we didn’t actually make it to Mendoza, the heartland of Argentinian wine production…and supposedly a lot of excellent restaurants to boot. Mendoza was supposed to be our final stop, a layover on our way from Buenos Aires to Santiago, but we ended up flying and thus missed it. But I have no doubt we’ll make it back to Argentina (what a scrumptious country!), and on that trip we’ll not neglect Mendoza and its delicious wines.

If you know of anywhere else we missed, any site you can’t believe we didn’t make it to and strongly believe that we should, let us know. Obviously we plan to live a long, long life and become quite wealthy, so we’re completely open to expanding the list.

The Floor is Open

Got a question for us? Then leave it in the comments section. We’ll soon write a post answering the questions we receive here, plus ones we’ve received by email.

Don’t by shy. Ask away. We really do like to talk about our trip, and we’re happy to answer questions about planning, about the actual experience, about the return to reality…whatever it is you want to know.

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.