Sunday, January 12, 2014

Places to go, things to see, travelling in 2014!

The arrival of a new year typically makes the travel section of my brain crank up, particularly if I don't have any travel planned. Right now I have absolutely nothing planned that involves a boat, a plane, or crossing a bridge (i.e., the most common ways one departs PEI). Lately I have been hanging out on the internet reading some travel blogs and realized the world is extra large and I have no idea how I'm going to manage to go everywhere other than winning the lottery and not feeling hindered by the need to have a job. Mostly I'm concerned about "big" trips, involving other continents and often crossing multiple time zones. I have so much world left to see! I'm starting to feel pressure to go to these places now as multiple people living in the internet insist you must travel when you're young (they think I'm young!) as life and responsibilities make it more difficult as you age. As I'm thinking those responsibilities and financial investments will be happening at some point in the next half decade (such as obtaining a house with a yard and a donkey) I feel these adventures need to happen now.

This post isn't going to be very interesting to people who have no interest in travelling, and that's okay. Some people have no interest in exploring far away lands, much like I have no interest in watching Mad Men. For me, travel wakes my head up in a way I love. I'm not a very organized individual and don't really plan much, except when travelling. I love picking accommodations, figuring out public transit, how to get from the airport to where ever, potential activities, printing maps, etc. I even make itineraries to see as much as possible and to always have an option. Even if the itinerary is broken (it often is), I like to have a general idea of what I'd like to do and when it could be done prior to departure.

A terrible picture of my itinerary for 4-week Europe trip.
I think I changed my plans by day six or so. That book
on the bottom left was full of European train schedules
and I loved the book way too much in an extra geeky way.
Then there is the actual journey. I love planes, trains, and buses. You just sit there and can chill out, watch a movie, read a book, etc. No guilt of "I should be cleaning", "I should be outside", or "I should call someone".

Lastly, I love being somewhere new. Or even somewhere not new, but that holds a special place in my wee heart. I like seeing things I can't see at home, I like learning randoms tidbits of local history, I like trying new food and finding places to eat, I like the pride I feel at using my intermediate French or broken Spanish. I like so much!

At risk of sounding like an overly enthusiastic traveller who "Oh my God, loves everything!", I've had some non-rosey travelling experiences. Usually I don't mind getting lost and enjoy the challenge of re-finding my way, but sometimes getting lost one too many times when you are actually trying to get somewhere makes you feel like ripping your map up, throwing it to the ground, stomping on it, and then burning it just to really get your point across. If I'm travelling alone and don't have a lot of human contact, I also get a bit moody. If it rains for multiple days and I'm travelling alone, I struggle to maintain any sort of outlook on life and just eat a kilo of chocolate. (Note: sad rain and solo travels occurred in Switzerland, so the chocolate was actually a cultural experience, right? Right.)

And now, not so interesting to anyone but me, a listing of the whole world and some rambling travel commentary. North America has been conveniently broken down into three countries, as dictated by wars long completed and NAFTA.

Where is left to go? The north! I have never been. It's not top of my travel list, but if I ever win plane tickets for anywhere in Canada that's where I'll be heading. In the summer, because I can handle almost-day-long sun much better than I can handle almost-day-long darkness and cold.

Canada isn't a top travel priority this year. I tend to travel within Canada for very specific reasons: visiting friends/family, exciting events (Olympics! Comedians!), or just wanting to leave PEI for the weekend.

United States
Manhattan, obviously
(Central Park Zoo)

I feel like I'm obliged to like travelling in my own country best, particularly when competing with our dominant neighbour to the south... but... but... I really like travelling in the US. It's typically warmer, cheaper, and things are closer together. "Things" being clusters of cities/places I would like to visit. The last point isn't really fair though because some Canadian cities are close and blah blah blah, but I feel it's easier to make a big loop in a US region as opposed to Canada driving straight back and forth. Anyway, I've done lots of travelling in the United States and will do more, but it won't be a "major" trip again for awhile. Maybe. WHO KNOWS?

Places I would still like to go to in America-land: Chicago, Arizona, various National Parks, New Mexico (I don't even know why), Texas, a return to New Orleans, etc.

Exclamation mark for guacamole. I've been to Mexico for about 11 hours of my life. Approximately three hours (at most) in Tijuana, where I never want to go again, on a day trip from San Diego. It feels quite unfair to say that I never want to return as I was mostly in the gross "give me your money" tourist area, so we can say I wish to never return to that specific area. Tijuana highlight was the street food - extra delicious.

Other Mexico experience was about eight hours in Cozumel, travelling via cruise ship. It was, of course, a bit touristy as cruise ship ports often are, but it was our first port, it was sunny, there was happy music, and all things required to make for a good day. What makes a good day for Miss Mac in Mexico? Simple formula: delicious frozen beverage when sweating in 30C heat, guacamole and fajitas, blankets (for purchase to take home), grocery store, $1.00 Coronas, and reading Spanish signs.

Secret: I love grocery stores and markets in other lands.

So yes, I must return to Mexico one day, I suppose mostly to eat foods and buy blankets.

In Mexico, doing what I do best in Mexico (eat)

Central American/Caribbean 
Must go!
San Juan, Puerto Rico

I was in Belize on a cruise ship stop and enjoyed it, though it seems like an "excursion necessary" kind of port as I think most cruise ship type people would feel a bit uncomfortable strolling through Belize City on their own. Also via cruise ship, I have been to a few Caribbean islands and Roatan, an island of Honduras. Not via cruise ship was an awesome adventure to Puerto Rico, where I thought I was going to pass out from heat one day. When working at Epcot, I became good friends with a Puerto Rican man who was working there temporarily. A friend and I went to visit him and his family after he returned to Puerto Rico. We went in May and by that point I had been living in Florida for almost nine months so thought I had acclimatized decently to the heat. Apparently I wasn't quite ready for sitting in an un-air conditioned car in heat and high humidity. Meanwhile, our lovely hosts were wearing jeans where as I felt like Will Ferrell in the scene from Old School where he gets shot by a tranquilizer. (Important link to scene.)

Left to do: pretty much all of it. My first oral project in Spanish class was about Panama, so I should probably go there. I also still remember the capital of Honduras from geography class ever so long ago (Tegucigalpa) so I should probably go there too. Oh, and apparently Costa Rica is lovely. I will add it to the list.

As you can see, I still have much to see in this region.

South America
I haven't been there! Anywhere! I should go. But when? One needs a proper allotment of travel time. And within South America, where? Suriname has always held a special place in my heart, mostly due to constant threats of moving there in 2007 when it was snowing out/I felt cold. Other than Suriname, the list includes all of the other countries. Maybe not Colombia, not sure how travel friendly it is, would need to research.

I've been there! A few times, and for a long time (about a year and half in total). But I still love it and want to go back. So much still to see (MoreSpainMoreFranceIrelandGermanyCroatiaHungaryMoreEnglandItalyMoreOfEverything).

Fun JenFact about Germany: I've never really been to Germany, I have just been in an airport and a train station. However, both of these times coincided with the last opportunity to spend Euros in each respective trip. First trip was in the Hamburg train station in 2005 waiting for a connection to Copenhagen. I bought chocolate bars (which eventually melted in the Denmark heat - thanks heatwave), probably a beverage, pizza from Pizza Hut, and a hot dog. While travelling on my own was good for forcing to make decisions, I wasn't always making good decisions.

In 2011 I was six years smarter during my Frankfurt layover (flew in from Dubai, waiting to fly to Montreal) so spent my Euros that hadn't been stolen (sigh) on giant Milka chocolate bars that were delicious and didn't melt. I also bought, with plastic money, a huge bottle of Amaretto from duty free which was, I'm convinced, stolen/consumed by housemates (or their friends). I wasn't pleased.

(Image Source)

Aww, Africa. I need to go on a safari. It's not even a question. I get so excited at zoos that I will probably need to wear an adult diaper when I eventually go on a safari. I know Africa is more than giraffes, elephants, lions, and hippos, but that is what the trip will be based around. Other things are second priority and will be worked around the safari of my dreams.

Additional JenFact: I was in Africa a few years ago, in Morocco with an overnight in Egypt (a story for another blog). When we got off the plane in Marrakesh to walk into the airport (Charlottetown style) my travel mate said, "Welcome to Africa!" and I had momentarily forgotten that was where we were. Northern Africa is a lifetime away from the Africa stereotypes of television.

Middle East
Lowest on the list. Will perhaps return someday, but bigger things await. Sorry.

Middle East
(Desert Safari)
Middle East
(Grand Mosque)
My ultimate travel stress. I have not been, but I should. Actually, I should had went there long ago and now be working on a return trip. I need to find the most responsible elephant sanctuary type place and volunteer there. I need to go everywhere even though I don't even know that much about travel in many countries (Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, etc).

JenFact: In 2010 I turned down an internship in India. Saying no was the right decision, I think, but I still sometimes wonder what it would had been like and if saying no was the best choice.

As of right now the top trip contender for 2014 is a return jaunt to Europe. West Jet still has good fares to Dublin, Ireland, and I strongly gravitate to good airfare. And from Dublin - who knows? Obviously I will have to go to Germany last in tradition of spending all my leftover money there.

Middle East

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