My Big Bumper Travel Wish List 2017
2017 is well under way, and most of us are looking forward to travel opportunities for the year ahead. At the moment, my travel itinerary has only one fixed entry, one that I can’t be flexible on due to the nature of the trip – read on for more details!
But the rest of year is still a relatively open book, an unwritten journal of possibilities waiting to be filled in. What those entries will be remains to be seen, but in the meantime, I’ve compiled a travel wish list of sorts, to kick-start the planning process.
It’s been put together from a variety of sources, such as past visits, other blogs, travel industry trending lists & publications and….my own long-held bucket list (which keeps growing even though I do check things off from time to time!).
Here’s my Big Bumper Travel Wish List for 2017 – let’s see if I can make it all happen.
The British Isles
We spend so much time searching for new horizons that we miss what’s under own noses. During my years in the London area I’d often tell myself I could explore our capital city at any time, the irony being that I left in 2013 without knowing a tenth of it.
For such a small geographical area, our little group of islands packs more history, culture and natural beauty into its frame than many a comparably-sized region. This year, I’m more determined than ever to explore more of our national treasures.
Another aim is to visit at least some of our International Dark Sky Places, areas officially designated as providing excellent stewardship of the night sky through responsible lighting policies and public education.
We have 9 such sites, including Snowdonia National Park in North Wales, featured in Lonely Planet’s recent Best in Travel feature, and Exmoor National Park, where The Quirky Traveller’s Zoe Dawes recently experienced A Weekend of Stargazing and Winter Joy.
If circumstances allow, and I get to venture to the remotest outer edges of Britain, I could do a lot worse than follow in the footsteps of On The Luce’s Lucy Dodsworth in her Journey Through Time on the Isle of Lewis.
Near or far, my home territory provides so many travel opportunities and it’s about time I made the most of it.
Belgium and Holland
Last November I took an impromptu business trip to the Netherlands, via the channel tunnel. It was for all of 36hrs and apart from a brief stop in Utrecht there wasn’t much time to explore, but it made me think. I’ve visited both countries, but not for a good while, and they are so easy to get to.
So next year, I hope to indulge myself with a few short breaks to our low-lying neighbours. Belgium beckons with a trip to the Euro Space Center, a recreational tourist attraction featuring interactive Space Camp missions. If I’m brave enough, I may even ask to try out their multi-axis or rotating chairs…before I’ve eaten, of course.
Time allowing, I’d like to hop across to Antwerp too – known as Belgium’s ‘capital of cool’, it’s completely unfamiliar to me, as I’ve previously only been to Brussels and Bruges.
Holland tempts me on many levels; the lakes and sand islands of Vinkeveense and Loosdrechtse Plassen, for example. I stayed on one of these islands during my last trip, and they are curious structures, worthy of further exploration.
Amsterdam itself, while well-known and documented, merits more time as my last trip was work-related, with my longest stint of free time spent at a freezing Schiphol Airport, waiting for the de-icing equipment to do its thing so I could get home that night (which I eventually did, at 4am).
And I think further exploration of Utrecht and its beautiful medieval architecture and picturesque canals is warranted, hopefully in slightly better weather than in November!
Where stifling sandscapes meet rolling oceans and infinite skies, Namibia feels as if it’s ‘out’ of Africa, so unique is its combination of habitats and culture.
If there is a predominant image of Namibia, the Skeleton Coast is it – so named after the whale bones and shipwrecks dotted along the shoreline. In recent years, though, ecotourism and extreme sports have become popular – and the country has also developed a reputation for having some of the best possible stargazing opportunities on the continent, with the NamibRand Nature Reserve becoming the first African Dark Sky Reserve in 2012.
With the current value of the Namibian dollar favourable to incoming tourism, now is a good time to visit, and Lonely Planet ranks it as No. 2 for value in 2017.
In my mind’s eye, I imagine gazing down at its imposing sand dunes (the world’s highest) from a hot-air balloon, and looking forward to a night under the star-studded heavens.
A former travel colleague of mine, (now running her own travel company Obeo Travel), spent several years there, and it was her heartfelt love of the country that first really put it on my radar. Today, it appeals to me more than ever, and Namibia could well become my first experience of Africa.
In case you hadn’t noticed from my surname, I’m half Hungarian. I’ve spent time with my family there on a couple of occasions, but not nearly enough time exploring one of my ancestral homelands.
What’s especially exciting is that most of my kinfolk live in the still relatively unknown Great Hungarian Plain, a vast 52,000 square km stretch of grassland which sweeps across much of southern and eastern Hungary. The famous ‘csikósok’ horsemen (Hungary’s cowboys) originate from here, and the region is a hotbed of conservation and culture, containing Hortobágy National Park (another Dark Sky Park), and the increasingly popular city of Debrecen, with its rich history and emerging arts scene.
Now more easily accessible with direct flights from several places in Europe (including from Luton with Wizz Air), Hungary’s second largest city is attracting greater attention than ever before.
Family, culture, nature and dark skies – the land of the Magyars beckons strongly in 2017.
Total Solar Eclipse 2017
Over and above anything else in 2017, there’s that trip.
It happens to be to the United States, but as much as I love many American landscapes, the country itself is not the main focus. I’m talking about the greatest show on (and off) Earth – the total solar eclipse of August 21st.
Each total eclipse is unique and next year’s eclipse path crosses the USA, hitting land in the state of Oregon and heading across multiple states before returning to the seas over the coast of North Carolina in the east.
My original concept was to combine this spectacular event with one of the most iconic road trips in the world, America’s Route 66.
The 2 paths form a giant, roughly X-shaped cross on the American landscape and my concept was to be at the exact intersection point on eclipse day itself. The nearest town is St Clair, about 50 miles or so south-west of St Louis.
This trip has been on my mind for couple of years, but I’m now in a mild state of panic at how little time is left to organise it all. I’m also questioning the wisdom of spending so much time and money on one high-concept adventure…would it be better to invest in say, really exploring Missouri instead? As a huge lover of music, I’m tempted to swap the tarmac of Route 66 for a few days experiencing the blues, jazz and ragtime culture and history of St Louis instead.
As things stand, the only thing I’m sure of is that I will go to see the eclipse.
Anybody also considering this (and you really ought to) should check out Total Solar Eclipse 2017, a website dedicated wholly to this one spectacular event.
That’s the short list, folks. The long list, as you’d expect, is ridiculous.
The wonderful thing is, we can plan and dream as much as we like, but often it’s the impromptu, the spontaneous, the improvised journeys that make for the best travel experiences and memories.
Having said that, dreaming costs nothing and brings its own delights, so I’ll carry on anyway.
Here’s to all our future voyages this year, both planned and unexpected.
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This wish list is subject to endless change and revision! If you have any other suggestions of things-to-do in the places I’ve mentioned, I’d love to hear them. Where are you heading to in 2017 and what draws you to a destination in the first place? Happy travel planning!