Where Not to Go in 2018, According to Fodor’s

I love this article from Fodor’s, in which they detail the top 10 places you shouldn’t go in 2018. In the introduction, the editors emphasize that they love these places, but that for various reasons we should give them a miss for at least this year. Several of them are under environmental threat from so many visitors — the Galapagos Islands, various Thai islands, Machu Picchu. They recommend against other places for different reasons, for example they suggest that Americans don’t go to Cuba just yet because the American government has strict rules about what you’re allowed to do and see, which goes against the spirit of travel.

They also recommend against visiting three places because the human rights abuses there are so bad that they fear for travelers’ safety and also they don’t want us giving our tourist dollars to these regimes: Myanmar, Honduras, and Missouri. Myanmar is committing genocide against the Rohingya people, the police in Honduras target LGBTQ people for abuse and even murder, and the police violence and lack of legal repercussions in Missouri is such a problem that the NAACP has issued a travel advisory for the whole state.

Kudos to Fodor’s for facing the uglier side of travel head-on, and for naming and shaming the powerful groups that make some destinations unsafe for all but a very narrow slice of humanity. It can be tricky to decide whether you should visit a place and support the locals with your tourist dollars despite the bad choices their government is making, or whether staying away will help pressure that government to change. I really want to visit Russia and take the Trans-Siberian Railway, for example, but Putin and his cronies’ treatment of just about everyone is so vile that I can’t stomach the idea. Yet I’m planning a trip to Israel, and that government’s treatment of Palestinians is terrible. I make these decisions on a case-by-case basis. How about you? Do you have a set of criteria for things that might make you skip a place on principle?

Happy New Year 2016

Happy New Year, dearest fellow travelers! I hope you had a nice holiday period of stuffing your faces and taking many naps. I had a lovely, quiet time with family and friends during the last week of 2015. Now that we’re fully into the new year, let’s jot down some New Year’s Celebrations. I enjoyed a lot of my celebrations from last year (I’ve really come ’round on real ale, for example). But although I had a lot of fun last year and saw a lot of new things, I still didn’t get out as much as I’d thought I would/hoped to. So for 2016 I’m hoping to:

  • Go somewhere new to me in London a couple of times a month (museum, landmark, park, etc.)
  • Get out of London and see another part of the UK once a month
  • Every 2-3 months, take advantage of my proximity to Europe and visit somewhere on the Continent
  • Also, as I look forward to every year, spend at least one entire day reading

Last year, I made good use of my English Heritage membership, and since I’ve had it renewed for Christmas, I can do more of that in 2016. Bring on the stately homes and drafty cathedrals! (I promise I’m 32, not 82.)

I saw a lot more than I managed to write about last year, but as ever, I’m playing catch-up. I have more to tell you about South America, for example, and I left there in 2014, but no matter. If I were in the mood to make real resolutions, this year mine would be to give you a written post a week, in addition to your Where in the World Wednesdays. I’ll do my best.

How about you, any New Year’s Celebrations you’re looking forward to?

Happy New Year! Here I'm decked out in red for Chinese New Year 2013 in Singapore.

Happy New Year!
Here I’m decked out in red for Chinese New Year 2013 in Singapore.

How to Live Your Dreams in 2015

How do you live your dreams in the new year? Don’t worry about it. I don’t mean that in a The Secret, trust everything to the universe and you’ll get everything you ever wanted kind of way. Neither do I mean it in a nihilistic, there’s no point to anything so just give up kind of way. I mean it in a realistic, optimistic way. I mean it in the way I posted about early last year. If we help each other, we’ll all get closer to our respective dreams. And we won’t get everything we dream of, but that’s okay, too. So do everything you can, but don’t worry if things don’t turn out just as you imagined them.

Tower Bridge at night

Tower Bridge at night

Most of our dreams can only be reached by a combination of effort, assistance, and luck.I wouldn’t be living in London if it weren’t for assistance, for example. If Liz and her flatmates hadn’t taken me in for several weeks while I got all the paperwork in order and bank account set up, and then a job to put some money in that bank account, I wouldn’t have been able to live in this expensive city. I met a couple people through Liz who were looking for someone to do the kind of work I’m good at, so I got some jobs in my field. As the end of January approaches and I need to find a new place to live and new projects to work on, I’m in a much better frame of mind than I was four months ago, when I was in a similar situation. Now I have some work experience in this country, which always looks good on the resumé, and although house hunting is a rough business in the squeezed rental market of London, I know the neighborhoods slightly better and I’ll find something for at least a little while. The dream of living and thriving in London is getting more tangible. I do the work on my own, I go for what I want on my own, but I’m ever grateful for the support behind me as I do it. That’s the stuff dreams are made of.

Slovenia by the Numbers

Lakes circumnavigated on foot: 1

Lakes jumped in mid-circumnavigation: 1

National poets side-eyed for their choice of muse: 1

Fancy breed horses that rebuffed my attempts to pet them: 4

Entertaining guided tours taken: 2

Picturesque castles viewed from a distance: 5

EU-wide award-winning ice creams tasted: 2

Attempts made to take this one special elevator to a club in Ljubljana, only to have the elevator stop a floor below the right one every time: 5

Mini-waterfalls admired: 2

Total days spent in Slovenia: 6

Total money spent: $361

Average per day: $60

Times I said, “Seriously, so beautiful” out loud: It basically became my catchphrase

Lake Bled, Slovenia

Lake Bled, Slovenia

Croatia by the Numbers

Hailstorms spent hiding on the portico of a basilica/mausoleum: 1

Clouds of cigarette smoke accidentally walked through: at least a dozen, ew

Roadside breakdowns while driving up a mountain: 1

Elaborate breakfast buffets consumed on a hostel balcony: 4

Outdoor choir concerts stumbled upon: 2

Adorable French children befriended: 1

Bell towers climbed while Vertigo played in the back of my mind: 1

Nights spent dancing on a giant outdoor light-up disco floor: 2

Green-blue waterfalls admired: at least 10

Island beaches sunbathed on: 2

Servings of the very strong local rakia consumed: 5, aka plenty

Total days spent in Croatia: 14

Total money spent: $1,078

Average per day: $77

Total money spent, minus the airfare: $906.36

Average per day, minus the airfare: $67.74

Expanses of otherworldly blue water seen: leagues

Looks good from here

Looks good from here

Five Years of Stowaway

Today is the five-year anniversary of Stowaway! Hurrah!

In that time, I’ve gone from Chicago to California, from Wellington to Waterloo, from Budapest to Buenos Aires, from Luang Prabang to La Paz. One of the reasons I write this blog is so that readers can stow away with me on my trips to various places, and as usual, thanks for your patience as I catch you up on where I’ve been.

I won’t be catching you up today. Today I’m continuing my job and housing search in London, because I really want to try living here for at least a little while. Today I’m just going to rest on these five-year-old laurels and appreciate the journey that took me all over Chicago, around the world, and here to London, the latest home for this Stowaway.

As ever, thanks for reading. There’s still much more to come.


Liebster Award

A lovely fellow traveler and blogger, who I met on the bus from Toronto to Detroit, has nominated me for the Liebster Award. Per her post, “The Liebster Award is awarded to newbie bloggers with under 500 followers by other bloggers to welcome them to the blogosphere and to congratulate them/highlight their blog. It is a great way to discover new blogs and to help drive traffic to each other’s sites.”

Katie is a Kiwi writing about travel, hiking, and food over at The World on My Necklace (love that name). Check out her musings from the other side of the world!

I don’t generally perpetuate chains, so I won’t do the second part of the thing, which is to pose new questions to everyone you nominate. But I do think it’s good to spread the word on other blogs you enjoy, so here are a few travel blogs that deserve a larger audience than what they have:

Who Is Spiro?
Jenna’s Travel Blog
It’s Time for Me to Fly

Here are the questions Katie posed. Thanks, Katie; this was fun!

1) What is your favourite travel movie?
I love a good road trip movie, even the darker ones like Thelma and LouisePriscilla, Queen of the Desert is also a winner, as is The Motorcycle Diaries.

2) What are your three favourite cities and Why?
Chicago was my home for five happy years, and although I have no immediate plans to move back, I have a strong loyalty to the city of neighborhoods, the lake, the architecture, the food and beer scene.

Melbourne’s mix of laid-back Australian charm, edgy art, hipster activism, and familiarly temperamental weather appealed to me, as did its proximity to the Great Ocean Road and the fact that wild penguins live within city limits.

I really enjoyed Buenos Aires. The mix of neoclassical and art nouveau architecture, the hundreds of cafes, the green spaces and grand places, the tango hideouts, the nightlife–I liked it all.

3) What has been your most memorable hotel/hostel stay?
That’s a tie between the two weeks I spent on a beach in Ecuador and the three weeks I spent partying and cultural appreciating in Cusco. I made good friends in both places, which is always the key to a good stay. (The only memorable-in-a-bad-way I can think of are the bedbugs hostel in Krakow and the roommates-having-sex hostel in Australia.)

4) Have you ever been robbed while travelling?
Sure have!

5) What is your best wildlife experience?
I loved working with elephants in Thailand, but for pure joy, it has to be swimming with dolphins in New Zealand.

6) How do you save money for travel?
I’m not great at budgeting (either at home or abroad), so I didn’t cut back on my lifestyle too much in Chicago. But for the last year before I left, I did set aside a third of every paycheck, which really saved it up fast.

7) Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
Um… doing something fulfilling somewhere I enjoy? That is as specific as I can get right now!

8) What is your biggest travel fail?
I felt a right idiot getting robbed, and also pretty stupid when I didn’t notice the exchange office had given me Czech money instead of Croatian. But the one I’m most annoyed about is missing the big Easter parade in Cusco by less than 24 hours–bad planning!

9) What is the best hike you have done?
Hiking around Uluru in Australia. Stunning!

10) What destination will you keep going back to?
I like this question, although I’m having a hard time deciding. I still feel like there’s so very much I haven’t seen, so I’m focusing on that. But I will always return to my family and the countryside in England, and I’d like to see much more of Japan than I got a chance to.

11) When did you first fall in love with travel?
From infancy! My parents took me to England when I was a baby, and I swear I liked travel from that moment on. I’ve liked solo travel ever since I first tried it, when I was 18 and going around Western Europe for a few weeks on my own.

If there are other great travel blogs you’re a fan of, please put them in the comments. I’m always looking for new people to read.

Too Old for Hostels

Matador has a great post up about how you know you’re too old to stay at hostels. Just about every one of those applies to me, except I don’t think about telling people to shut the hell up after 1:30am, I actually say that to them.

Most cities have non-party hostels, so those are the ones I usually stay at, thus bypassing many of the problems mentioned in the Matador post (party boats, etc.). And in Southeast Asia, a private hotel room with attached bathroom was so cheap, I usually went with those.

But some of the things they mention–rolling your eyes any time someone talks about “just living,” stereotyping Australians–well, those apply anywhere.

The Things I Left Behind

Apparently, the latest travel advice is to take your grungiest underwear and t-shirts with you, wear them out over the course of the vacation, and then buy new ones to take home. I see the benefits of that, but when you’re traveling for longer than two weeks, it’s trickier. I take only one of just about everything–jeans, warm top, jacket, etc.–so it has to be able to last the whole trip. A lot of people do buy new clothes on their travels, especially in Southeast Asia and South America, where everything is cheaper, but I usually can’t find anything close to my size, so I can’t depend on that.

My Chacos lasted me over three years of hard use

My Chacos lasted me over three years of hard use

So it’s not surprising that a lot of things don’t make it home with me. On this last trip, my bag came home considerably lighter than it had left. Here’s what I left behind in the hostel trash in Buenos Aires:

  • one pair of Chacos, right shoe’s strap dangling
  • one pair of ripped-up yoga pants
  • one pair of destroyed leggings
  • one small backpack, strap dangling and hole near zipper growing more giant by the hour
  • at least a kilo of paper–notes from Spanish class, receipts, tickets, scribbled tips from other travelers about what to do in various cities

The backpack broke as I started out on my second day at Iguazu, so I spent the day carrying it around like a particularly cumbersome purse. The shoe broke in the last hour of my time at the falls that same day, so I flapped around the trails and switched to flip flops as soon as I got back to the hostel. Could’ve been worse.

Literally the moment I boarded the bus to the Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls, the strap on this backpack broke

Literally the moment I boarded the bus to the Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls, the strap on this backpack broke

Then there are the things I lost:

  • my purse and everything in it, stolen in Cusco
  • the scarf I bought to replace the scarf that was stolen
  • one charger, for the mp3 player I bought to replace the music on my stolen iPhone
  • one headlamp
  • one fleece, so warm and desperately needed (I bought a new one online before I even returned home, is how necessary a fleece is to my travels)

Material possessions take on a dual meaning when you’re traveling for a long time. On one hand, of course they don’t matter as much–you’re living a different kind of life from the one you lived when you were in one place, and you just need less stuff. On the other hand, you only have one of everything, so if something breaks or goes missing, you’re missing something that you considered crucial enough to carry around on your back for five months. You don’t need much, but what you do need, you generally really need.

Still, it’s all replaceable. Which reminds me, I’d better go shopping before I leave again.

The hole appeared one day, and three days later, there was hardly any point to having a zipper

The hole appeared one day, and three days later, there was hardly any point to having a zipper