While some people may find the predictable end of the year/start of a new year posts a little predictable, I always look forward to writing them. For me, they’re a great way to organize my thoughts and to set priorities for the next 12 months. It’s far too easy to fall into familiar and comfortable routines, at least it is for me, but by starting out the year with a clear roadmap – or at least a solid set of goals – I feel that I’m able to break out of that routine and to achieve some real accomplishments. At least, that’s the idea. Looking back at previous attempts at setting myself up for success, the results have been decidedly mixed. Some years were better than others, but at least I tried. At least I started out on the right foot mindful to make some corrections to my own life while also looking ahead at what opportunities might be out there. With all of this in mind, I once again want to share some of my personal goals; ways I want to improve, as well as some destinations I would love to visit. I don’t anticipate visiting all or even most of these places, but it’s great to have goals in mind and it’s always fun to see how far down the list I can get.
I realize that I list this epic drive every year but I have promised myself 2017 is THE year. Steinbeck once called it The Mother Road and from the Dust Bowl to the American Renaissance in the 1950s, this road has held a special place not only in the hearts of Americans, but of people around the world. It hearkens back to an era when anything seemed possible, when taking to the open road was an adventure and the fun truly was in the getting there. While Route 66 technically doesn’t exist anymore, it’s still possible of course to drive huge parts of it as you meander from Chicago to the pier in Santa Monica, California. Along the way are quirky roadside attractions, strange motels and national wonders that rank amongst the best in the world. Yes, I want to see and experience all of those things but I also want to reconnect with my own country, one I love dearly and of which I am fiercely proud. Just as people did in the 1950s and 60s, I want to experience a great American road trip and to discover aspects to the American experience that I don’t even know exist.
Over the last few years, I’ve traveled to Iceland on average about once a year, each time deliberately focusing on a different part of the country. While not large, there’s a lot to see and do in Iceland and from the very beginning I knew I wanted to take my time and to get to know it more deeply than I do many other destinations. Well, there’s one last part of the country for me to explore and I intend to do it this year – North Iceland. I’ve left it for last out of laziness, it’s harder to reach than the other, more touristy areas and I’m not sure if there’s nearly as much to see and do as on the south coast for example. But it’s Iceland, so I’m positive that whatever is up there is both freakishly gorgeous and endlessly interesting.
These little islands in the North Atlantic have intrigued me for quite a while. Officially part of Denmark, they’re remote and from all appearances gorgeous. I’m just guessing here, but I also think Faroe must be a lot like Iceland, just smaller and with fewer tourists. Either way, I’m eager to visit and see what makes them special.
India is one of those places that evokes a visceral reaction from people who have visited – they either love it or hate it, there is no middle ground. I honestly don’t know if I would like it or not and up until now I haven’t felt prepared enough to visit. But I think I’m ready mentally to see what the subcontinent is really like. I want to travel there though in very specific ways and see very specific things and it’s owing to this level of particularity that I’m not sure it’ll happen and frankly, I’m not completely convinced that I want it to. But we’ll see!
Talk to more people
Not long ago, I was asked to chronicle some of the people I met while traveling in 2016 who made a difference in my travel experiences. The problem was I couldn’t think of very many, which worried me greatly. It showed me that I didn’t do a great job of getting out and chatting with people last year, one of the most important aspects of the travel experience. I need to get back to my roots in 2017 and take the time to engage with as many people as I can when I’m on the road.
Closed off to foreigners for years, Myanmar suddenly finds itself as one of the hottest new travel destinations in the world. It’s not its trendiness that appeals to me though; it’s the photos I’ve seen my friends take. The people, the temples and the countryside all look like something out of a movie – it’s just that beautiful. While traveling there definitely comes with some headaches, I’d be happy to take those on to experience the country before the rest of the world changes it too much. I’m pretty sure that this trip will actually happen and if it does, I’ll be joining The Strand luxury cruise as a fantastic way to first experience the country.
Walk the road not taken more often
I think I’ve fallen into a travel rut, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not good either. In 2017 I need to make sure that I stop being so regimented, and put down the guidebooks and just go off and do my own thing. I think I’ve become so obsessed with documenting everything and making sure I don’t miss something “important” that I sometimes miss the most crucial aspect of travel – the spirit of discovery.
Really all of South America should be on this list. I’ve visited a few targeted areas around this vast continent but overall my experience there is very limited. I’d like to change that and Brazil seems like the perfect place to start. Beautiful beaches, energetic cities, great food and a fascinating culture are all more than enough reasons to add this to my 2017 travel goals list.
Switzerland and Portugal
I’ve seen most of Western Europe but not all of it, which is why I’ve included both Portugal and Switzerland on this list. While I have technically been in Switzerland, it was for a night while passing through and that’s it. If Instagram has taught me anything it’s that Switzerland appears to be both incomparably beautiful and full of cheese which are fantastic reasons to visit in my humble opinion. Add in vibrant cities, chocolate and fancy watches and I think it sounds like a perfect trip. Portugal on the other hand has completely eluded me and I don’t know why. I know many people who have visited, they all love it and I’ve never read anything negative about it. While I’m a little nervous about the food (I don’t eat fish or seafood) the pastries alone might finally lure me over in 2017.
I love expeditionary trips, whether it’s to Antarctica, the Galapagos or some other far-flung place. I enjoy feeling like a real explorer and not just a tourist and while I’ve gotten close, a true expedition to the Arctic is high on my to-do list. There are many different ways to reach the Arctic through a few different countries, but no matter how I get up there I’d love to spend a couple of weeks exploring this hard to reach part of the world.
I have been very fortunate to have spent a fair amount of time traveling around Australia and while I have much more to experience, I have been to almost every Australian state. Almost. One has eluded me and based on all of the photos I’ve seen, I know that when I finally do visit it’ll be love at first sight. Visiting Australia is always special, but Tasmania in particular has piqued my interest for years. Slightly remote, amazingly beautiful and somewhat different from the mainland, Tasmania is an intriguing place. Of all of these destinations, I really do hope that I can make this one happen in 2017.
Even though my time spent in Eastern Europe has been brief, it’s always been amazing. The cities, the natural landscapes, the cultures and tasty bites to eat have all surprised me and left me wanting for more. I’m not picky where I go, I just want to make sure it’s somewhere new and that I have plenty of time to explore.
More completely unique experiences
A big part of the travel experience for me is the adventure of it all; doing things I’ve never done before and having fun in the process. Skydiving is still something I haven’t done and would naturally love to try, but there are many other unique experiences I’d love to enjoy this year – we’ll just have to see!
What’s on your 2017 to-do list?