The new year is here, and with it comes the call of new adventure and time to reveal my travel plans for 2016. Fernweh, that farsickness, my longing for faraway places — tugs so strong on my spirit. The end of 2015 it was so strong it was painful. 2015 was more of a transformational year, but 2016 is looking to be a transient and nomadic one packed full of new destinations. It’s time to listen to my heart again.
2015: A Transformational Year
At the end of 2015 I was struggling with some past emotions ignited by the holiday season and by spending it alone here in Melbourne. During that time, I had intense waves of up and down emotions and moods that showed me I have a few more things still bothering me about my past to conquer. I hadn’t spent a holiday alone since I began traveling, and paired with my disdain for waiting tables and the desire to quit now and hit the road — it all came to a peak on New Years day. I felt lonely. I felt frustrated. I felt stuck. Then I took a good hard look to examine what was really bothering me.
Travel doesn’t heal, that was one of the most important lessons life on the road taught me, but it is the perfect vehicle for facing personal issues. And at the end of 2015 I faced another issue that I didn’t even know was haunting me — I disliked Christmas and New Years because of bad memories about my past.
That hasn’t allowed me to ever be a part of other family moments or traditions or to make my own. I was harboring this malice without even knowing, until it made November and December miserable for me. Then, I realized and acknowledged the issue. I’ve now been able to move on from this, and I believe holidays abroad now won’t be so grueling for me.
My Least Traveled Year
I pride myself as a slow traveler, but I traveled less in 2015 than I have since I began traveling in 2011. I kicked off the New Year in Port Au Prince with friends after exploring southern Haiti for 10 days on one of the best adventures I’ve ever been on. I loved seeing the fireworks over Port Au Prince on their independence day, sipping soup joumou, and getting this blog ready for launch.
Spring brought the twisted metal Rickshaw Run.
After ditching my restaurant job, I vowed not to go back to waiting tables and make 2015 the year where I focus on freelance writing and graphic design. I spent that first few months working on contract in DC for a media company and saving money. March arrived, and after months of preparation and raising money for the charity race, I was off to India to kick off the Rickshaw Run with my travel buddy Derek (The HoliDAZE).
Oh, how plans can fly out the window.
To say India broke me is putting it lightly. There are a lot of aspects about India I like, but there are also an overwhelming amount of reasons why it is the most mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting place I’ve ever traveled to. India is intense in all aspects, and exploring it after surviving 2,500km driving across in a rickshaw isn’t recommended. The Rickshaw Run is one of the craziest adventures I’ve ever had, in a good ways and bad ways, but after the stress a sever health issue experienced during it, I wasn’t in a good state.
Derek and I parted ways after the race when his visa ran up, and we planned to meet up in Nepal after I explored Darjeeling for a week. Then, the Nepal earthquake struck, and it changed everything. We were going to hunker down and edit the Rickshaw Run videos in Nepal for a couple of weeks, then head to do the ‘Stan Seven together. He was trapped in Nepal and I couldn’t get into the country. That’s when I decided on Australia, and a couple of weeks later was approved for my visa. And here, in Melbourne, I’ve been for the past 7 months.
Ups and downs are bound to happen on the road. Hell, I still get scared before every trip, and I ain’t afraid to admit it! There’s always excitement and an anxiety. I’m still fresh into the world of travel and learning lessons and making mistakes. My first trip and the fallout after showed me that I had to deal with my personal issues before going abroad again. My second stint, I was all over the map in Southeast Asia and Europe cementing the fact that travel is really what I want in my life. This time around, I’ve realized what I want my travels to be about and what I want them to be for.
While traveling, I still struggle with bouts of depression like I experienced recently in Melbourne over the holidays, or battling worries of my budget and how to make long term travel a reality. But I’ve now reached a point where I acknowledge these feelings and address them, as opposed to surprising them like I used to. So, even though I haven’t made leaps and bounds toward making a career from travel writing, I have made tremendous progress in understanding myself and making it a habit to focus on living positive.
Now I feel more focused than ever on travel and travel blogging, and given the upcoming adventures in 2016, I know I’ll have so many awesome experiences to share.
2016 Travel Plans
2016 is here and I’m itching to hit the road so much so that the pull to travel is almost painful! Melbourne has been a great city to live in, but my vagabond heart needs to explore. Sure, there’s tons to see in Australia and before I leave I at least need to explore some of the main spots, but “Western” cities and countries don’t create the kind of connection I feel in more exotic or ancient places.
Lately I’ve managed to get out of Melbourne and into the wild doing small road trips along the Great Ocean Road or camping and hiking for a weekend in the Grampians Nations Park. That’s when I’m in my element and feel happiest. So, even though cities like Sydney are a must before I go, I’m interested in Australia’s more natural side.
Here are some of the spots I have in mind to see before I go. As always with me, plans change like the wind, so I’m considering even renting a van or taking the train across. Until it happens, these are all tentative.
– Tasmania – Uluru and Alice Springs in the Northern Territory – Perth and the West Coast – Sydney – Gold Coast and Great Barrier Reef – Blue Mountains in New South Whales
April: Myanmar //
In April, I’ll get getting a dose of exotic when I travel to Myanmar for the second time with Jean of Traveling Honeybird blog. The trip came about randomly when I noticed Jean’s post on Facebook asking if anyone would want to tag along with her Myanmar adventure. Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has inly recently opened it’s borders to tourism and is a destination that is still very culturally intact and not impacted by tourism takeover.
When I first visited Myanmar in 2013, it was just across the border to orphanages set up as schools to take in children from the previously war-torn nation. It was a depressing sight as I was tasked with photographing conditions for fundraising more orphanages and schools and saw the worst of the worst. Much of it was in the border towns along the Myanmar/Thailand border where many of the families have been taken advantage of that were seeking safety. Given that the country is still struggling with a violent and corrupt past, there are parts of the country that one simply cannot travel to, but my desire this time is to get to know the cultural and experience Myanmar through locals in interactions.
Plans are up in the air for what to do while there, but the country seems ripe for exploring by train and maybe motorbike, while Jean has also mentioned some multi-day treks which I’m always up for. Myanmar still doesn’t have much of an infrastructure, lacking ATM’s and banks in most places, so it’ll be an experience in all it’s own.
Also, after seeing Anthony Bourdain (my travel hero) explore Myanmar, I knew I had to as well.
UPDATE // Untainted Myanmar in Photos
Croatia. What can I say? Besides the fact that I’ve wanted to go here for years. Before I even owned a passport, a friend who had traveled through told me I should go there and work at a hostel. I didn’t even have a concept of hostels at that point, let alone travel, but after seeing photos it stuck with me.
Now, that opportunity has finally come. I’ll be heading to Croatia at the end of May to embark on one of the most unique and excited travel experiences my life: learning to sail while on the Mediterranean.
A sailing company called MedSailors contacted me one day out of the blue and asked if I would like to be one of their VIB sailors (Very Important Blogger) and I nearly leapt from my chair and danced about. Okay, I did leap from the chair and dance. They run sailing trips from more laid-back journeys, to the Discovery Option geared toward seeing and experiencing more. I had the choice to do Greece, Croatia, and Turkey, and though it was a hard choice, I knew I wanted to have this experience in Croatia most.
May 28th I’ll be taking off on a sailboat with MedSailors from Split, Croatia to live on the boat and learn to sail for 7 days, while visiting small Croatian towns and islands along the Mediterranean and seeing the ancient landscapes, experiencing the vibrant culture, and enjoying the nightlife. The route bounces from small islands down the coast and back up to Split, where I’ll be taking a transport provided by MedSailors to head down to Dubrovnik after. You know what that means — Game of Thrones fantasy fulfilled. Plus, the walled city has always been a top place I’ve wanted to visit.
After my sailing trip and exploring Dubrovnik, plans are in the air depending on a few factors. But one thing I know for sure is that I’ll want to see most of the country before I leave. See below for update.
JUNE/JULY: Work in Croatia //
Big news announced that change the rest of my travel plans for the summer months in Europe. I’ve received one of the biggest opportunities of my life and I’ve been chosen to be one of the summer photographers for MedSailors for two months from the end of May and through July. I’ll spend the summer living aboard a sailboat taking photos of people enjoying the same tour I’ll be taking part in mentioned above.
JUNE August: Eastern Europe //
Given I’ll already be in Eastern Europe, my doorway to exploring the rest with be Croatia, and after I’ll begin my journey through the rest. In 2014, I explored a bit of it with brief trips to Prague, Budapest, and Vienna, but I’m hungry to see more. I don’t have a planned route at all, or even an idea about how I’ll get around, but I’m sure I’ll figure that all out when I’m there. I’m thinking buses and trains, though I’ve heard that can be a bit pricey.
One thing I’m interested in is hitchhiking as much as I can through parts of Eastern Europe.
A reader of the blog told me all about his adventures hitchhiking all the way through Eastern Europe back to London and the incredible experiences he had, so I’m game to try. Also, being a lover of anything involving castles and ancient history, places like Turkey and Romania are screaming at me to visit.
If you have any ideas or experiences traveling Eastern Europe, please do give a shout!
JULY: Mongol Rally //
Adventures in 2015 were kicked off by the Rickshaw Run in April, and as you all saw, it was an insane road trip. Even with it being an exhilarating and unique way of experiencing a country and raise money for a good cause, it left me with health issues and travel fatigue.
So why would I consider doing something similar again, except this time it would take 2 months and we’d be traveling from London to China through the most grueling terrain on the planet? Because obviously I have an addiction to doing things that may kill me. In reality, it’s just the craziest thing I can imagine doing and I love road trips, but one through all of Europe and Mongolia to the border of Russia would be the ultimate undertaking. I want to do these things while I’m young(ish) and reckless.
The Mongol Rally would again be done with Derek of The HoliDAZE like last year, but we are only just now talking about it. Time is ticking on entering and fundraising, so we have to decide soon if it’ll be this year or next. For now, this travel plan is a maybe.
UPDATE // Due to the overlap of my job in Croatia with MedSailors, the Mongol Rally is postponed until 2017.
AUGUST: Burning Man //
This is another big maybe, but Burning Man is one thing I’ve wanted to partake in for years now. I know plenty of friends and travel bloggers who have done it as well and all they say is that it’s life changing. Tens of thousands of people in the middle of the desert creating a free and artistic community, and enjoying music festivals and more. This depends really on whether or not I do the Mongol Rally, so if that doesn’t happen, Burning Man is a sure thing.
Fall 2016: Unknown //
For someone who doesn’t plan much at all, these are the most travel plans I’ve ever had lined up, and even these aren’t set in stone. So after things unfold and I see where the first half of this year takes me, I” have a better idea of where I’ll be going this fall. Will I visit the US and explore a bit more given fall is my favorite season to explore the States? Will I take off to Central or South America finally? Who knows, it’s all dependent upon my budget and my encounters along the way, because I could meet some awesome people who give me new inspiration for where I should go next!