2015 Travel Plan of the Day

2015 Travel Plans
2015 Travel Plans

Researching my next trip.

This is an exciting time for me: I’m in the process of planning fall travels. Our peripatetic lifestyle usually has us living in Anchorage for about three months from February to April. Although I am not a huge fan of Anchorage, it does have a library with a massive travel guide section and these cold winter days are a great time to sit down with a cup of coffee and plan our next adventure. In October, our work contract will be over and we will have two months to travel. This has been our life the last 10 years, and it is awesome.

As we research our next adventure, we have what we call a Plan of the Day. Basically, since we change our mind every other day until the plane tickets are bought, we don’t really talk about where we are going much, and if we do, we preface it by saying this is the current plan, or Plan of the Day.

[Mom, if you are reading this, you should probably click away now.]

This year, we want to go somewhere really off the beaten path. We have been researching places like Iran, Ethiopia, Somaliland, Uzbekistan, and Bangladesh, countries that are actually surprisingly safe but sound a bit scary. Our Plan of the Day is to go somewhere like this, a place with fewer tourists and more adventure.

Below, I have created a Power Ranking of the places we are thinking of visiting this year. We will be traveling from the first week of October to mid-December, so weather and price are big factors. Sorry Europe, but that excludes you, unless we could find a cool housesitting gig. Anyone out there need us to watch their place this fall?

2015 Travel Plans Power Ranking

1. Ethiopia

If I had to pick right now, we’d go to Ethiopia. The weather is perfect in October and there are a staggering variety of things to do, from hiking in the Simien Mountains to visiting centuries-old rock hewn churches; Ethiopia is loaded with things to see and do. Plus, it is dirt cheap, has a variety of fascinating cultures and has hellish bus rides. I’m really not sure why I haven’t gone already.

Lalibela Church

Church carved from the top down in Lalibela, Ethiopia (Wikimedia Commons)

2. Iran

I know it sounds really scary (I really hope my Mom isn’t reading right now), but Iran is supposed to be a very safe place and very hospitable to Americans. Here are some links to assorted blog posts from travelers who have been recently:

Humans of New York Photographer in Iran

Travel to Iran as Americans – from the Uncornered Market

79 Reasons to visit Iran – Joao Leitao

Iran is loaded with the sorts of things we like to see – ancient ruins, towering mosques, friendly people and stunning mountains. Plus, October is a great time to visit.

The only downside is that as Americans, we have to go on a tour or travel with a guide. This makes it more expensive and cuts down on our flexibility, but I have also read that the guides are fantastic.

Yazd Iran

Yazd, Iran (From Wikimedia Commons)

3. Northeast India, Calcutta and Sikkim

India is our favorite country. We have a couple of years remaining on our visa and a big goal of ours is to get back before those expire.

This time around, we are interested in the Northeast States, the region that dangles off to the east, surrounded by Burma, Bangladesh, China, Bhutan and Nepal. There are many diverse cultures and unexplored areas in the region. Moreover, the tiny Himalayan province of Sikkim is accessible from this area, and I really want to go there.

4. Bangladesh

Bangladesh looks like India but maybe even crazier with far fewer tourists, which sounds great.

5. Nepal 

Okay, so Nepal doesn’t qualify as off the beaten path, but doing a trek in the mountains is on my to-do list. I’ll have to talk the wife into that one though.

6. Cuba

I really want to get back to Cuba before it opens up to Americans. Cuba was the place where I became interested in photography. I was not only drawn to the photogenic cities, beaches and mountains, but I also wanted to document how cool it was for my friends and family back home.

Cuban Capitolio

I want to go back to Cuba.

7. Mexico

As sort of a back up plan, Mexico waits patiently south of the border. Many Americans go for the beaches and sunshine, but I am intrigued by the Mayan ruins, colonial cities, the Copper Canyon and festivals.

Still in the running

7. Egypt, Jordan and Israel (Kind of depends on war in the area)

8. Eastern Turkey (Don’t really want to bump into ISIS there)

9. Bolivia and Argentina (I went in 2005 and want to return badly)

10. Serbia, Bosnia, Bulgaria and the other Balkan states.

11. Burma

12. Uzbekistan

Eliminated

There are a handful of places that I’ve been researching that have been eliminated. Whether it be weather, expensive visas or war, I’ve crossed these off my list for this year.

  • Yemen (the new war is a deterrent)
  • Oman (too expensive)
  • Pakistan (terrorism)
  • Philippines (typhoons during Oct-Dec, went to Indonesia last year)
  • Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan (weather, visit in summer someday)
  • Georgia (weather, too cold)
  • Armenia (see Georgia)
  • Azerbaijan (see Armenia)
  • Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands (weather in Galapagos)
  • Guyana (someday, but not this year)

In effect, as I research different places to go, countries, regions, states and cities get crossed off the list, not unlike the March Madness basketball tournament. I think this bracket illustrates where I stand right now, of course this bracket is subject to being torn up and thrown in the trash.

Plan of the Day Bracket


What are your 2015 Travel Plans? 

Do you have any advice for the off-the-beaten-path places we are considering? 


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59 Comments on “2015 Travel Plan of the Day

  1. I hope you don’t mind a long comment, cuz I have some thoughts….

    Your list sounds fabulous! I’m going to be jealous again I’m sure.

    Don’t knock out Galapagos, because the weather there is great in the fall. I was there late October 2011 and it was marvelous. There is no bad time to go to Galapagos, there is always something different going on with the wildlife.
    Ethiopia. I don’t know anyone who has been there, but when I read articles about it, I’m fascinated. Definitely keep it in the running.
    Iran. Good food, lots of great things to see, great people. Every Iranian I meet is amazing, everyone I know who has been there is in awe.
    I have been wanting very much to return to any of the Balkan countries and would very much love to visit Georgia, but October-November is not exactly a great time. Sigh. Although, my Romania trip was in October and I had marvelous weather, just a bit chilly (which I like).
    The Stans!!!!! YES!!!! I have been fascinated with these countries every since I read the book “Apples are from Kazakhstan” and another book about the ‘Stans I can’t remember the name of.

    As for me… I’m considering sea kayaking Sea of Cortez again because it was so marvelous, and adding in a backpacking trip into the desert mountains. Or Bolivia or Colombia, which have been on my ‘list’ for oh-so-long. Or kayaking in the Everglades. Or Morocco.
    Like you, I get a bit obsessive about it, and my plans change constantly. Too many places to see.

    • Kevin,

      I will have to add Galapagos and Ecuador back to the list. I heard it can be quite windy that time of year, but if you had a good experience, that changes things. We have been looking at the Sea of Cortez after seeing your photos and stories from last year. That looks amazing there.

      Thanks for the feedback and comments.

      • Hey there ! Im from Ecuador and indeed Galapagos is always lovely but i would recommend it on Feb maybe om carnival around that time of the year. The weather around that time is better and for instance if u are looking forward to scuba then the undersea visibility is better. Either way hope u get to see it!

  2. If you go to India or Nepal the Bruso’s might need to follow. Also, if you go to Nepal or Bangladesh we have a friend who treks there a lot and could provide some suggestions

    • Dominick,

      That would be fun to meet up with the Brusos! You children would of course be celebrities. Have you went to Burma yet?

      I’d be interested in contacting your friend who has done treks if you want to send me his info via FB.

  3. What a fun life you lead. 🙂 I would also love to visit Iran. We have a lot of Persian friends and their pics from back home are just amazing. And the food! 😮 Our favourite “risky” off-the beaten path destination during our RTW was definitely Colombia. Amazing country, amazing people, definitely worth a visit…

  4. First thing I would do is to cross off any country you didn’t write at least 75 words about in this post. If you didn’t write at least that much about them, you can’t convince me they are really in the running. Next thing I would do is add Croatia to the list (I was there before they joined the Euro and it was awesome). Ethiopia sounds very cool, love the church above. Perhaps I would end it all with a coin toss. No matter which country wins your travel dollars, I can’t wait to read about it!

    • Laura,

      Thanks for the tips. Maybe I will flip a coin, or throw a dart. That could be an exciting way to decide in the end. I’ll add in Croatia – the weather should be good in October. We have a lot of friends from the former Yugoslavia and I’d like to visit them someday.

  5. I got excited seeing your Central Asia guide book! Uzbekistan (via Istanbul) was my first exposure to exotic Muslim culture many years ago and was very special friendly…alas, it was “BF” (before blogs). We do have recent blogs about hiking in Nepal last year, along with amazing experiences in Lake Baikal in Siberia and a month in Mongolia, two central Asian places I didn’t see on your list that you may want to consider. I know what you mean by not buying plane tickets yet! You cannot go wrong. Happy trails!.

    We’re headed to Haines, Alaska in a couple of months to volunteer at the Bald Eagle Preserve for the summer, as you will be flying to the other side of the globe.

    • Ron,

      I will actually be in Glacier Bay for the summer, so if you are in Haines and can make it over we can get you a great deal on lodging there. That is good to know about Uzbekistan – it looks like it has some amazing mosques. The only downfall with the Stans is expensive visas!

  6. Those are some seriously amazing destinations, Jeff! It’s really hard to pick one I’m sure, although if I was given the chance to choose I would have narrowed my options down to only three countries: Ethiopia (the oldest independent country in Africa), Iran (just awesome!) and Cuba (before things change). However any place you pick, you’ll surely have a great time!

    • Thanks Bama,

      Since I wrote this, we have been looking at Cuba again more seriously. I can fly there for about $300 and in about 5 hours which is much shorter and cheaper than the last few places we’ve been!

      Your trip looks amazing. If we decided on India we might meet up.

  7. Wow! You don’t fool around.
    I was planning on possibly taking the motorcycle out today and making the 20 min. ride up to Myrtle Beach. Possibly

  8. Go to Burma. Go to Burma. It is extraordinary. Go before too many others discover this place. We only had 3 weeks and only hit the hot spots but from the little research we did there are also great beaches, hiking etc. Just search Myanmar on my blog and you’ll get a feel for it. Oops, I actually wrote *eleven* posts on Burma – don’t know if you have time for that much reading but maybe you’ll glean something from it.
    Happy travel planning
    Alison

    • Alison, Thanks for the advice and I’ll read those posts. It is definitely some place I want to go. I love Asia. My only concern is it is artificially expensive due to some new rules on hotel pricing.

      • From vague memory I think we may have paid as much as $70 (CDN) in Yangon, but only $40ish for a very nice place in Nyaung Shwe (the town you stay in for Inle Lake)

      • If we end up in Northeast India or Bangledash, we’d be stupid not to go there too. That would be a great trip. I may move it to the top of the list for the day!

  9. You are definitely serious about you travel planning! I am more of a ‘I´ve heard its supposed to be great, wanna go?’ type planner. We booked our honeymoon about a month before we travelled….hehe:) Looks like Ethiopia is just up your alley having crazy bus rides for you to enjoy!

    • Yes, planning is part of the fun for me. Within the trip, we often do spontaneous things, but I do a lot of reading and research before picking a region.

    • Jamie, Okay, that is now on the list for someday. We have not done west Africa yet but there are some intriguing places there. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Wowza that is a serious list Jeff. We are headed to Peru and Galápagos in June so of course I am hoping you might bump that up on the list. Of course then I would have to be jealous of your astounding photos. 🙂

    • Oh sue; I didn’t know you were going to Galapagos ? Where are you going ? I’ve spent 3 months over there in 2011. I can recommend you a great diving center.

      • We are going cycling and hiking in Peru for 2 weeks and then to Galapagos for four days and staying on Santa Cruz. All booked through a tour company but thanks so much. Three months sounds blissful!

      • Santa Cruz is nice. I’ve seen the most beautiful beach over there : Tortuga Bay, I hope you will have the time to visit 🙂 I’m so looking forward to see your pictures 🙂

    • Thanks Sue. I’ll be following your Galapagos visit with interest. I went to Peru about 11 years ago and loved it – you are in for a treat on that one.

      • There are a few dream destination on this planet, things from an early age we know would be awesome to see, like the Taj Majal, Rome, Pyramids of Giza, an African safari, the Great Wall of China. Not all of them end up living up to expectations. Galapagos is one of them, and I am sure it will probably exceed what you are expecting!

        I only have one Peru tip that you may not find anywhere else: beware of altitude sickness! We got caught in a rain storm and ran back to our home stay. We were at an altitude of over 13,000 ft (something like 4000 meters for you 🙂 ) and at dinner, I got dizzy and violently sick and had to leave. The family we were staying with spoke Quechua as a first language, and only the father spoke Spanish. Kristi was stuck with this family and her 10-15 Spanish words while I was sick in the room.

    • I want to return to Bolivia because at the time I had a little point and shoot film camera. I want to take photos of the place now that I have a better camera and more experience. At the time it was the most spectacular landscapes I’d ever seen, and I imagine it will still rank #1.

      • Yes I did, and it was unreal. We were there during the wet season and the entire place was a giant mirror. Aside from that, the colorful lakes, flamingos, volcanoes, lava floes, alpacas, surreal landscapes, geysers, all combine to make it one of the most spectacular places on Earth. Go someday!

      • I really didn’t do Bolivia justice. I only spent 4 days there, all in the southwest. I came over from San Pedro de Atacama in Chile, did a four day tour, and then back to Chile and headed south. I certainly want to get back there and see all the places on the list!

        Thanks for sharing.

  11. Whoa…I absolutely respect your research capabilities. And your ability to draw straight lines. And your definitive winnowing of possibilities. If there were an Olympic event for travel planning, you’d take gold, dude. I’m not much on planning. I’m more like the lady above–more the “was-that-heads-or-tails” type of planner.

    Since I haven’t been to the States in a few years and because I want to check out a few things, my current plan of the day is Big Island, Hawaii. I know, not that exotic, but it is Hawaii and not Maryland. And…like you, this might change tomorrow if someone whispers something like “Zanzibar” into my ear and the coin ends up heads.

    • There is no shame in the Big Island, or going anywhere, as a matter of fact. When I was back in my home state of Oklahoma last winter I found interesting things to see. But yeah, Zanzibar is cooler than Maryland or Oklahoma, and just about anywhere.

      • Right, no shame really, in Hawaii. It’s just not Zanzibar or Uzbekistan. BTW, I have friends who went to Uzbekistan, came back with outrageous photos.

  12. I hope your mother wasn’t reading. I’d vote for Mexico only because I’ve never been to any of the other places on your list, nor feel the need to go (I’m probably as old as your mother). And Mexico has great weather most of the year, and is safe (don’t believe what some people say about that).

    • Many years ago I traveled across Mexico by bus, really only stopping in three places: Oaxaca (on Cinco de Maya, btw), Guanajuato and Creel. I was exhausted after four months in Central America and Cuba and was a little over traveling. I have always wanted to get back and properly see the country, traveling from the Yucatan back over land. Maybe this year.

      You are right – Mexico is very safe in many ways. Avoid certain cities and states, and there should be no problem.

  13. What a list Jeff! 😀 Do you limit to one country? Maybe Ethiopia and Iran should be highly considered. If you wish to visit Iran, pls do check Ninstravelog – she has been to Iran and her images are awesome and inspiring https://ninstravelog.wordpress.com/2014/06/19/iran/

    This year my travel partner and I hope to visit Africa for the long holiday. But our working schedules get priority before long vacation, so we will see..
    By far the confirmed travel plan this year, before the long holiday, are two cities in Europe as quickie holiday break…

    • Most of the time we try to visit several neighboring countries. I love seeing how different places can be when separated by a border, like Italy/Switzerland, Egypt/Israel, USA/Mexico. Last year we spent almost all of our time in Indonesia and two years ago India, and that was great to get to see more of one place and all the differences.

      Africa is great for a long holiday, and fairly easy from Holland. I’ll check out the link. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Your match-plan really IS hilarious *lol* Balkan states would be too cold in fall as well if you say Georgia would be too cold. I’ve also had friends visiting Iran and they loved it. I’ve been to Jordan and Syria myself and it was some big beautiful amazing trip, but I’d really advice to stay out of those places for safety reasons (because you stated “depending on war in the area” for Jordan and Israel). I heard New Caledonia and Cape Verde should be beautiful and pretty remote, depending on the area you’re traveling to. Wish you good fun and luck deciding :)!!!

    • The whole situation in the Middle East and Greece is turning me off of that area. We haven’t decided yet but I’m leaning towards staying close to home and doing Mexico and Cuba. Thanks for the tips – I’ll check out New Caledonia and Cape Verde.

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