As a full time employee of Corporate America, I spend a lot more time daydreaming about travel than actually traveling. I toyed around with the idea last year of posting about the places that take me down wikipedia and travel blog rabbit holes, but with little follow through. And as I’m kind of spent talking about Southeast Asia for the moment, I couldn’t think of a better time to revisit my various wanderlustings. So without further ado, find below the five spots keeping me up at night, planning adventures well into the 2020s.
I have never been to Africa. And while there are a million places I would love to visit there, Mozambique is at the top of the list. I know a few people who have had the privilege of traveling there and I have only heard amazing things. From the unspoiled Indian Ocean beaches (the country stretches from South Africa in the south all the way to Tanzania in the north – that’s an impressive coastline), to a fascinating and tragic history of Portuguese colonialism, to the diversity of people found there (like many places on the Indian ocean, trade routes catalyzed cross fertilization of cultures belonging to the nations surrounding the body of water), everything about Mozambique is attractive to me. There’s even a healthy dose of modernist architecture to be found in the larger cities of Maputo and Beira.
Read about Mozambique:
The Dnieper River
It doesn’t help that I’m belly deep in planning a Ukraine trip, for sure. The Dnieper is the most important waterway in the Texas sized nation, connecting Kiev with Cherkasy, Dnipro, Zaporozhye, and other important centers of Ukrainian (and post-Soviet) industry. I want to know this river. I want to know the color of the water like I know the color of the Mekong. I want to party on the banks of the river with portly middle aged Cossacks in swimwear that doesn’t leave much to the imagination.
What I want most, though, is to take an old Russian hydrofoil from Kiev to Dnipro with a bunch of Ukrainians in late Spring next year. Wish me luck.
Read about the Dnieper:
High Caucasus Villages of Azerbaijan
Imagine you’re in Georgia – imagine Svaneti. No, imagine Tusheti. Then make that harder to get to with a microscopic number of outsiders ever visiting. That’s how the high villages in the Azerbaijani Caucasus are. Xinaliq, the highest and perhaps best known, finally received a paved road (along with the first Presidential visit) in 2006, making it more accessible to travelers who seek places truly untouched by modern backpacker culture. Architecture is interesting, people welcoming, and it’s pretty hard to get more remote (the difficulty in obtaining an Azeri visa can attest to this as well). I dream of spending a week in the high mountains, hiking around in the day, and bundling up around a wood stove at night. Basically feeling my “The Sound of Music” fantasy without the Nazis.
Read about the High Caucasus Villages of Azerbaijan:
I’ve never been to South America, and my experience in Central America is limited to beers in Yelapa, Mexico, and ten days sunning buns on Little Corn Island, Nicaragua. Chiloe is like neither of those. On your way from Santiago to Tierra del Fuego lies Puerto Montt and Chiloe Island. Densely forested and sparsely populated, it looks like a Chilean version of Prince Edward Island. It’s lush and green like the rest of Patagonia, with an interesting cultural mishmash present due to Spanish, French, and Indigenous cultural influences. There is a well-known pilgrimage route around the islands many wooden churches, where I’ll gleefully snap photos while my husband waits outside and lets resentment build about the religious architecture I’m always dragging him to see. (JK we’re very good communicators, don’t worry)
Read about Chiloe Island:
Larung Gar, China
This largest monastery school complex in China is located within Tibet (well, technically Sichuan Province), and is in great danger. Chinese authorities, in their continued attempts to stifle Tibetan culture and religion, have begun to impose restrictions on the number of buildings and people that can be at one religious learning center at a single time – basically limiting monks and acolytes from having freedom of assembly. A large proportion of the buildings are set to be destroyed without intervention, and many of those learning will have to disperse to further flung places across the Tibetan plateau – or even in to India.
I’m actually quite conflicted of going to this place – as in, I don’t think I can adequately perform the mental gymnastics to justify my presence there. It’s one of those real and true Shangri-La’s: a place that is magical to dream about, but that you want to simply be. I fear my presence with my camera gear and big duffel bag would distract from the magic that happens there. I think that may be an Orientalist way of thinking, but I’m sticking with it.
Read about Larung Gar:
Why are all the places I want to visit a solid 48 hours away by most convenient transport? On second thought, their remoteness (both in physical distance and culturally) is probably what attracts me most to these places in the first place.