Preliminary planning for 2018 travel

It’s never to early to plan, eh? Recently, I was asked about my list of destinations that I want to visit this year, which featured my standard of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Georgia, Serbia, and Kosovo. For sure I want to visit them, as they’re very close, thus saving precious time and money. However, after talking with other people lately, I’ve decided to throw in some new destinations.

  • Armenia is a place that I haven’t really heard about in terms of its travel. Neighboring Georgia is all the rage lately, but I figured that it’d be a shame to pass up Yerevan. I have two options in mind, with the first being that I’d do a dual Georgia-Armenia trip (no word yet on where I’d fly in to), and the second is that I can use the May holidays to take a mini-trip to there. Admittedly this is quite a short period for both options, but I figured I’d test the waters for a return trip.
  • As I’m taking Portuguese lessons, the mother country of Portugal is naturally on my list. Lisbon’s trams are iconic, and I want to see them in person. Furthermore, I’ve heard that the food and wine there is divine, which is fortunate because I love fish.
  • The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is increasingly popping up on my radar. Lake Ohrid is obviously one their biggest attractions, if not the biggest, but Skopje looks pretty neat as well. Honestly, I’m really fascinated by the country’s history/I want to learn more about an under-the-radar destination, so when you combine that with the fact that I’m still trying to work my way through the remaining Balkan countries, its appeal is becoming more evident. Upon further consideration, I’m thinking of possibly combining a trip to the FYR with Bulgaria to really optimize the trip.
  • Maybe because I’ve been going back and re-rereading the book Playing the Moldovans at Tennis, but Romania’s neighbor is looking like another possible May holiday destination; it’s one of those places I’d want to feel out before committing to visiting for a longer period. Also, one of my goals is to visit what is Europe’s closest answer to “what if the Soviet Union still lived on?” in the wannabe breakaway region of Transnistria. Alas, word has it that the paperwork to enter there is arguably as bad as Russian bureaucracy, hence it being a dream for further along in the future.
  • As Kramer and Newman found out in one of my favorite sitcom moments, “do not say Ukraine is weak.” Ukraine, I’m reliably told, is yet another New East rising star, and lately I’ve been perusing quite a few articles about all things Ukrainian. If you look past the murky political situation, Kyiv for all intents and purposes looks to be pretty hip and rapidly transforming.
  • Tromsø, in Norway. Nothing special here, but one of my longstanding goals in life is to visit the northern part of Norway. Though given the incredibly high prices in Norway, I’d probably visit in May if I did end up going.
  • I’ve been meaning to visit the Middle East at some point, and I figured Jordan would be a good starting point. Amman apparently combines the old with the new, and that blend is something that appeals to me. Plus, the ruins of Petra present themselves without comment!
  • Hear me out: Oman. One of two Middle Eastern countries on the list, Oman is unique in that it isn’t reliant on oil. Hence why I’m curious to see what life is like there! And really, how much do you know about the country? Being honest as well, Anthony Bourdain’s segment there piqued my interest, and what I saw on his show seemed a highly unique blend of old country and the new, modern cities.
  • Tunisia as well. This admittedly is a bit of a pipe dream, but I do want to check out North Africa. Not much is planned other than I want to visit there, but hey, who knows what might happen.

 

Within Russia, I do have a few destinations I want to see at some point while I’m here. With the upcoming World Cup, I don’t know if and when I’ll get a chance to travel to these places, given the reports of alleged price-jacking for flights.

  • Kazan. One of the biggest cities in Russia, you can see the juxtaposition of Christianity and Islam, which is absolutely fascinating. Quite a few of my friends either have visited there or are originally from there, and they’ve said nothing but positive things about the city!
  • Khanty-Mansiysk. Where? It’s the capital of the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug, aka the center of Russia’s oil production. In all honesty, the only reason why I know about it is because of the hockey team of the same name, but looking more into it, there’s a huge amount of fossils there. In essence, I just want to see a northern region of Russia.
  • For destinations that absolutely are only targets for the summer, Murmansk and Arkhangelsk. I’m lumping both of them in together because they’re both far in the north, but I hope to be able to see the Barents Sea and the White Sea respectively. If I haven’t already mentioned it, going to extreme points of countries is what excites me and these readily fulfill that criteria!
  • Grozny. Yes, I know what you’re thinking: “The capital of Chechnya? Why the hell would you want to go there?!” One expat in the corresponding Moscow group posted a link where some guys visited there, and it looked pretty normal. In fact, the authors of the article mentioned they found it to be rather neat! Big streets for the region’s capital and the general lifestyle of any city in the world; that normalcy is something I’m keen on experiencing firsthand. Plus as I always say, travel makes people more connected and furthers better tolerance and knowledge. I don’t know when I’ll be able to go, but I’m already doing some preliminary research on the timing to visit.

 

So, has anybody visited these places? If so, I’d love to hear about your experiences!

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