Where next?

As I wrote in my last post, it’s been too long since I last went travelling. While I’ve been to some pretty amazing countries over my 21 years (see here for my favourites) – some practical life choices this summer have meant that I can’t wait to hit the road again with a backpack. Unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to do this properly until July 2015 at the earliest (some pesky university finals to get out of the way in the meantime), but I thought I’d try and at least get the ball rolling in thinking about where I’d like to go then. (I have a year to fill as I am taking a break after uni.) Here follows a mix of childhood favourites I’d like to revisit and uncharted waters ready for mapping out…

Top on my list

  • China. I went here for ten days around the time of my 16th birthday and I’d love to return to explore it in more detail. From that briefest glimpse into the country I was fascinated, from the high-rise blocks in Hong Kong to the slightly crumbling but still awe-inspiring palaces of the Forbidden City. I think this time I would like to spend a much longer time in the country to try to understand it in greater depth, and possibly visit some rural places as well as the standard city tourist hot spots. Also, I would definitely want to get a few Chinese language lessons at the start, as I remember feeling completely swamped by foreign symbols and sounds that I couldn’t even begin to understand (I’ve never learnt a non-Indo European language). Let’s not forget as well the delicious food, very different to the sort of stuff you find in a Chinese takeaway in England! I guess another reason to visit is that I often read about China in the news and how it is going to be a big world power, but how it is very “different” to the west, so I’d be interested to find out exactly what that means (and how true it is). 
  • Other parts of south-east Asia. This is an area of the world that I really know next to nothing about. I’m hoping it could be explored perhaps as part of the China trip. There are obviously some very “gap yah”-ish destinations in Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia etc, but I’m sure it’s a) popular as a tourist destination for a reason (I mean, Angkor Wat isn’t visited by zillions of people every year just by accident, right) and b) possible to get off the “gap yah” trail. 
  • New York. I’ve never been anywhere in the United States, and while I’d never thought this to be an issue in the past (I mean, how different CAN it be to Britain apart from more fast food, bigger cars and an inexplicable love of guns?), over the past six months or so I’ve started to realise that all I think about America essentially revolves around the above negative stereotypes. So many people I’ve met love America so there must be a lot more to it than that, and I’m drawn particularly by the allure of New York and the exciting lives I’m imagining are played out there among those skyscrapers. 
  • Living abroad in a European city. If I do manage to take a whole year out, I’d love to live for 3-5 months in a European city to learn a language. French would be an obvious option as I have a pretty good grounding in it, but German would also be a possibility. So Paris or Berlin would be clear choices, but it might be better to go somewhere that’s not a capital city like London? Perhaps a city in the south of France? This would all partly depend on what language courses were available, if anyone else I knew was interested in doing the same and could flat-share and so forth. 
  • Iran. I tried to go here with my family this year but unfortunately politics did not work in our favour (see here). I’m mildly (but not wholly) optimistic that the visa rules may change again at some point in the future.
  • Crete. I’ve studied Linear B and early Cretan history a fair bit, so I’d love to be able to visit the ancient Minoan palaces. And, you know, maybe fit in a bit of time on the beach at the same time…

Further down on my list

  • New Zealand. Again, not somewhere that I know a huge deal about, but the landscapes look amazing… 
  • Mongolia. I was here for a few days when I was about 11. I’d like to go back there now that I’m older as I only really have a few brief memories – staying in a traditional ger which was incredibly over-heated, horse riding across the plains and being terrified I was about to fall off, and a strange situation sharing snuff with a nomadic family. 
  • Ireland. I’m half-Irish by heritage and haven’t been to the Emerald Isle since I was about 7, when the last of our Irish great-aunt type relatives died. It would be great to go back, visit Dublin and some of the countryside – but it perhaps isn’t one of my priority destinations right now. 
  • Florence. I once read a book all about how the great dome was built (I think the architect was called Bruneschelli, but don’t quote me on that!), and since then, I’ve always wanted to see it in real life. Italian pizza and gelato would also be a draw… but I’m thinking this could definitely be a potential city break destination for next year. 
  • Greece. I spent three weeks here in 2013 which were absolutely amazing, visiting Classical sites as part of an organised course with some other British students. However I’d love to return to discover more (without a coach helpfully dropping us door to door), and also perhaps to find out more about Greek culture from other periods. For one thing, we didn’t get to visit any of the islands… And to have some more of that simply divine frozen yoghurt, and return to ordering wine by the kilo, not the bottle.

When it’s safe

  • Egypt – to see the pyramids. I’ve studied Egypt from the ancient Greek perspective (well, more from Herodotus’ perspective) but I’d love to find out more about the country, both ancient and modern. There’s been a lot going on there though, so I’m not sure when it would be safe again. 

When I have more money

  • Japan. This has been on my list for a while, but has definitely moved up since I read Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. Plus I love sushi. 
  • Sweden and Denmark. Dem Scandinavian countries be super stylish, if fairly pricey. 
  • Iceland. A friend of mine recently went here, and I’m very jel of the pics of her in its incredible natural scenery, especially those natural hot springs!

I’m realising as I write this that many of these countries are on the list because I love the food they have. This makes me wonder about what other countries think about British food – it’s not like you find British restaurants in other parts of the world, and if you did, what would they serve? Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding on repeat? Apple crumble speciality cafes? Delicacy Cornish pasties?

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