Middle East

Journeys of a Lifetime in January

Happy New Year! Welcome back to my new monthly series on Nomadderwhere, one which highlights the incredible trips one could take in that current month - thanks to a vibrant book called Journeys of a Lifetime by National Geographic. Each month I pick a couple adventures from each section in the book in order to provide you inspiration for 365 days from now. Read the brief description to whet your appetite, and click on the trip name for further information (links provided by National Geographic...of course you could be a gritty backpacker and make it on your own).

Across Water

The Orinoco River Cruise: The dry season in January lends to the viewing of more land mammals along this river cruise through Venezuela. Boy oh boy...the description of this places includes words such as: expedition, canoe, venture, wetland and steamy jungle. I'm there.

The Mekong River: Laos is on a ticking clock toward Vietnam status, and it's up to you to seize the opportunity to view this country's incredible landscapes before the authenticity becomes manufactured. Nat Geo claims this is the most scenic stretch of the massive river through the Southeast Asia region.

By Road

Historic Spain: There's no bad time to see the architecture of historic, central Spain. January will wash out the summer tourist crowd and give you snow capped mountains in your photograph backgrounds. Give yourself one week to drive along this ribbon of highway, and remember to ask in Segovia about the suckling pig.

Crossing the Sahara: Get your visas ready and your car rented. You're about to drive across Morocco, Western Sahara and Mauritania to see some cultures and barren landscapes that present an awesome challenge to the "bring it on" type of traveler.

By Rail

Bangkok-Kanchanaburi-Nam Tok Line: This time riding the rail will bring you closer to the gritty, not further away. Taking this infamous route, known as the "death railway" from WWII, will remind you of the many POWs and lives lost from building the bridge at the River Kwai. It's not all gruesome and heavy-hearted; the landscape is Thai-rific.

The Palace on Wheels: India's glitzy region of palaces and architectural masterpieces will give you plenty of eye candy and good photographs on this luxurious train ride. It's not my favorite side of India, but many find the old British and Raj culture appealing. The Golden Triangle along with Udaipur and Jaisalmer makes for an awesome itinerary, though!

On Foot

The Shackleton Crossing: South Georgia is a speck in the Southern Ocean and looks like a challenge for weathered climber types like Jon Krakauer and Bear Grylls. I pretty much guarantee no one reading this post will attempt this climb, but I thought I'd give you some dream material for tonight's slumber.

Climbing Kilimanjaro: Africa's tallest peak and the only 8,000+ meter mountain that one could ambulate - climbing Kilimanjaro seems to be an achievement worth going for. Those who have claimed the summit unanimously advise climbers to take the longer route (Machame) for better odds of success and greater views.

In Search of Culture

Japanese Kabuki Theater: With make-up that would spook the Joker and costumes that could presumably stand on their own, the men of Kabuki theater become household names for their dramatic and powerful performances. Brace yourself; these shows look lengthy but worth it for a one-time experience.

Earth Architecture of Yemen: High rise earth architecture makes Yemen look pretty darn cool. Perched at the heel of Asia's wee bootie are homes made of sun-dried mud bricks and a culture sure to intrigue. Nat Geo recommends going with a reputable tour company and taking caution with photographing people. Should make for an interesting trip!

In Gourmet Heaven

Eat Your Way Around Sydney: After you recover from a surely intense NYE celebration on the beach, enjoy Sydney's January Festival and a slew of culinary jackpots around Oz's biggest city. If you're into Euro-Asian fusion food with top notch seafood, I'm guessing there are few places in the world better than Sydney.

Malaysian Melting Pot: And we thought we were a melting pot…maybe next January you'll be traveling up the peninsula of Malaysia to sample the converging tastes of many prominent food traditions: Chinese, Indian, Arabic, etc. Thanks to all the hawkers and street food artists, some call this country a snacker's paradise.

Into the Action

Following Che Through South America: Cross the Andes on two screeching wheels in the footsteps of Che Guevara, but make sure you remember to ride something a little more reliable than "La Poderosa." Buenos Aires to Machu Pichu will take you across some varying landscapes and surely on a journey fit with ceaseless inspiration.

Cross-Country Skiing in Lillehammer: Check out this "premier cross-country location" if you want to make like a Scandinavian and glide. Easily accessible from Oslo, renting all your gear is possible on location, and going in January ensures a helluva daylight surplus!

Up and Away

The Nasca Lines: It is only from the sky where you can truly appreciate the diversity of Peru's terrain, as one ecosystem bleeds into the next. Also from this vantage point you can be slapped silly by the wonder of these earth drawings that were created with pre-historic tools by the Nasca people.

Alpine Baloon Festival: Arrive in Switzerland in late January for a display that surely inspires painters, children's book illustrators and surrealists worldwide. A sky of balloons decorate the invisible Christmas tree in the Swiss Alp valley. Inquire about the nighttime flight of illuminated balloons while you're there!

In Their Footsteps

Road to Enlightenment: Follow Buddha's journey to enlightenment from his birthplace in Lumbini, Nepal to Patna, India, past the third-generation descendant tree where he attained nirvana. Ahh, the ease of traveling in the moderate chill of February around the Subcontinent.

Tramping After Mark Twain: A boat trip down the Neckar River could inspire you to write a Huck Finn sequel, just as Twain was inspired to write the original on this journey. Tramp across Germany and Switzerland, enjoying the chill and scenery of winter, on a journey that the famed American author used to "improve himself."

How's that brain? Spinning with innumerable desires to traverse continents and climates? Pull out a pen and prioritize your life by putting one or more of these trips at the top of the list. And by planning a year in advance, you'll be quite able to save, prepare, and anticipate the rigors of your adventure in every way. Check back in February for the Journeys of a Lifetime you could partake in next year!

Where are you inspired to travel to next year? Leave a comment and be my new friend.

Consume & Update: Gulf States, Piano Stairs and Home Again

A week at sea leaves Lindsay's RSS reader mighty, mighty full. Blame the straight day of transit yesterday for this late posting.

Don't forget about the Middle East!

Gary Arndt and AmateurTraveler.com presented a podcast this week about traveling to the gulf states that gives us an ear into a conversation on countries often left off the itinerary. I've only used the gulf states as transit points and scapegoats for complaining induced by the heat/humidity dual attack. Gary chats about the basics you probably aren't savvy to. It's the kind of conversation one would overhear in a hostel common room. Whets the travel tongue a tad.

The 20 Best Travel Books of the 20th Century

I'm a sucker for these travel book lists, and here's another one from the Times in the UK, one which immediately verified itself as quality with the inclusion of 19. The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton. Some of the others from the list that I hope to read in the future are:

14. The Silk Road: Beyond The Celestial Kingdom by Colin Thubron (1989)

11. In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin (1977)

4. The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux (1975)

Stairs + Piano

Intelligent Travel posted a video last week by Volkswagen, whom is apparently interested in either fun or fitness...or both (and since I'm now a VW owner, I guess that means I need to support my make). The objective here was to observe whether passers-by prefer fun stairs to a boring escalator. Volkswagen better not make sidewalks into xylophones, or they may find themselves out a few customers.

de Botton on Airline Food

Eva Holland of World Hum posted an excerpt by one of my favorite writers, Alain de Botton, this week on airline food and a refreshing manner in which its quality could be judged.

Naturally airline food is dismal when we compare it to what we’d get on the ground but this is to miss the point. The thrill of airline food lies in the interaction between the meal and the odd place in which one is eating it. Food that, if eaten in a kitchen, would have been banal or offensive, acquires a new taste in the presence of the clouds. With the in-flight tray, we make ourselves at home in an unhomely place: we appropriate the extraterrestrial skyscape with the help of a chilled bread roll and a plastic tray of potato salad.

Other Discoveries

Getting a Job When You Return (Day 29 on AlmostFearless.com)

Travel Blog Exchange Expo set for June 26-27, 2010 in New York City

Update on Nomadderwhere

I returned yesterday from a quite enjoyable cruise along Baja California in the choppy, foggy Pacific where we ported in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. Expect some practical and entertaining posts in the coming future about cruise travel and Mexico with videos and photos galore. Apologies for the untimely posting of this week's Consume & Update, and I promise a higher level of quality for next week (when I won't be stranded at sea with $.50/minute internet fees).

Journeys of a Lifetime in October

journeys

I welcome you to a new monthly series on Nomadderwhere, one which highlights the incredible trips one could take in that current month - thanks to a vibrant book called Journeys of a Lifetime by National Geographic. Every month I will pick out a couple adventures from each section in the book in order to provide you inspiration for 365 days from now. Read the brief description to whet your appetite, and click on the trip name for further information (links provided by National Geographic...of course you could be a gritty backpacker and make it on your own).

Across Water

Yangtze River Trip to the The Three Gorges: A trip in early fall through some incredible, mountanous landscapes could coincide with October 3rd and the Chinese Harvest Moon Festival.

The Mangoky River: Madagascar's baobabs and the "slowly-slowly" mentality of the land give me two reasons to desire floating in an inflatable raft across the tip of the big island. October is the last month of reasonable weather before the ghastly heat sets in.

By Road

The Fall in Vermont: Does my longing to going on a fall foliage drive make me an old lady? Either way, I don't care if it means I get to log miles around a beautiful chunk of America and potentially camp out in the cool nights between drives.

The Dolomites: Northeastern Italy gets great weather and less tourists than usual in October, which is perfect if one desires to see sky-splintering peaks, Alpine pastures, and still speak l'Italiano all the live-long day.

By Rail

The Reunification Express: After reading Catfish and Mandala, making the 1,000 mile jaunt across Vietnam seems like a trip worthy of filling numerous journals and marking off loads of "once-in-a-lifetime" experiences from the list. This train would make this trip possible, that is if you're not a crazy/cool cyclist relying on your two wheels.

Trans-Siberian Railroad: Fall colors, warm days, and cool nights - that's quite a list of benefits for traveling from Moscow to Beijing in October via a world famous train ride. The trip takes one week

On Foot

Greenwich Village: True, this area can be enjoyed any time of year, but the crispy atmosphere of fall makes pleasant a couple days of perusing galleries, visiting Edward Hopper's house, and eating at former speakeasies, like Chumley's. Maybe you'll get inspired to "keep moving" while taking in Figaro Cafe, a hang-out of the "beat generation".

The Inca Trail: Dry weather meets the hearty soul that wants to trek through the thin air of the Andes in October. Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu, and loads of misty sights are calling you...

In Search of Culture

Treasures of Jordan: October is just as great a time as any to hire a car in Amman and hit up some ancient relics of the past in the Middle East. Fancy yourself an Indiana Jones as you bound around the ruddy sandstone of the Treasury of Petra.

India's Golden Triangle: I can attest to the fact that going on this trip in the heat of summer is just plain mean to your boiling spirits, but alas, the relief that comes in October! Agra's Taj Mahal at sunrise, Jaipur's Amber Fort and Rajasthani culture, and Delhi's urban jungle are real experiences to be photographed, reflected upon, and absorbed into the mind forever. Read my blogs from the Golden Triangle here.

In Gourmet Heaven

Bourbon Trail: Another prime opportunity to see good fall color while sipping some classic American spirits. Even though we Hoosiers are supposed to make fun of Kentucky, I've always been a fan of the horse farms and Appalacian foothill country, and I'd imagine pumping some whiskey into the equation wouldn't hurt it!

Central Valley Wine: Go from fall to spring, harvest to planting season, with a trip to Chile for some grape guzzling. The Andes are supposedly visible from every vineyard in this region, which has a unique climate sure to cause some exciting fermentation to occur. Go skiing, walk along the beach, and then go find some good wine in the hills.

Into the Action

Polar Bears in Canada: October marks the start of a great bear-watching season annually, and Churchill is known for their outsized bears. Not as elusive as the tiger, but apparently just as easily camouflaged into their surroundings; a couple days looking for polar bears sound like thrilling days well spent.

Sea Kayaking off Baja: I know I'm going to be taking full advantage of being around Baja in October by partaking in a gorgeous and exciting activity: sea kayaking. Rocky cliffs edging an ample marine world in the blue Pacific waters; it's the stuff of dreams. Check back for upcoming blogs on this very activity.

Up and Away

Flying High in Paradise: Take a heli for a spin (don't worry, you're not driving) around the volcanic islands of Hawai'i, where you'll be dumbfounded by how green and undulating the converging ridges appear. Great weather and better prices will please you in October. I've experienced this flight and loved it.

Fly the Coral Route: Tahiti, Rarotonga, Samoa, Fiji, Auckland, Dreamland - it sounds like purging your wallet for an aerial island-hopping experience in the South Pacific couldn't disappoint if it tried. And with October providing some drier conditions, you'll be able to see the blue silk in 360 degrees around you.

In Their Footsteps

On The Road after Kerouac: Though my opinion on Kerouac's instant classic novel is still unformed, I can't deny the pulsing urge inside me to hop in a car and take I-80 as far as it will take me. Maybe that makes his work a success in that it instills the desire to move for the sake of moving. From New York to San Francisco, such a road trip would be quite a thrill to take while reading the novel and hitting up Denver and Chicago along the way, not to mention the great weather October would bring across the entire stretch.

The Silk Road: Avoid the extreme weather conditions by traveling in October through western China to Turkey and some of the world's oldest inhabited cities. The spanning cultures are sensory-linked with landscapes that could slap a yak with amazement.

How's that brain? Spinning with innumerable desires to traverse continents and climates? Pull out a pen and prioritize your life by putting one or more of these trips at the top of the list. And by planning a year in advance, you'll be quite able to save, prepare, and anticipate the rigors of your adventure in every way. Check back in November for the Journeys of a Lifetime you could partake in next year!

As this is a new series, I'd love to hear your feedback on the effectiveness of this concept. Leave a comment and be my new friend.

The Sauna that is Dubai: Day 30-33

I’ll be honest. The only time I’d subject myself again to a natural, sauna-like environment with sky-high prices and buildings and a soul burning sun would be on a really…really long layover. Though I absolutely love the airlines flying around the Gulf (and so much of these cultures is fantastic), I just don’t see myself coming here for any other purpose than to get somewhere else…fast. Now that you know how I feel about traveling in Dubai, and other cities akin to it, I’ll spend some lines telling you about how to make your layover friggin’ stellar.

First stop, book yourself in a nice hotel, not that hostels scatter the landscape, but fitting yourself in a stylish accommodation will score you a bed that releases the deprived slumber angels from their hiding places. The billowing breeze of the air-conditioning chills your travel weary bones, causing you to wrap up with a lovely down blanket and rejuvenate the soul. And it sounds like you could really go to town on this bullet point by booking yourself in a seven star (yes…7) hotel on the water if you felt like it. Of course, if you were capable of doing such things, you probably aren’t reading this blog ;).

Second is the kebab. Arabic food and its nearby influences make the Gulf a pretty dandy place to grab a meal. My mouth had a ball with chicken kebabs and shawarma. The yogurts and blends of spices are really unique and demonstrate the “schmushing” of cultures that occurs in this immigrant-filled city.

Third and most important stop…dune bashing. Remember that opening scene of Aladdin? Well, we saw no enchanted tiger head sand sculpture, but the dunes an hour outside the city stretch forever and provide a perfect setting for testing the limits of Toyota SUVs. It was a slow-motion car commercial, or slow-motion car accident without the eventful ending. We drove sideways and slid down sandy slopes. Upon finishing our ride (which had me bracing my stomach and holding a baggie), we ended at a desert barbeque fit with henna tattooes, sandboarding, ATV rentals, and belly dancing. Natalia was quite the ripped, yet feminine, shaker and showed up every single ambitious soul that joined her on stage. Chris and I managed to get up there for a few shimmies and hip shakes. It was completely touristy and completely awesome, and those words definitely aren’t synonymous. It was a success.

So now you know what to do in Dubai. And if you’re capable of sticking around for longer than three days, you’re pretty hardcore in my book.

Mid West Meets Middle East, The Staredown: Day 150

Lindsay in Doha, Qatar

A sleep deprived, dehydrated Mid Westerner in the Middle East...too hot for complete thoughts or sentences. A far too classy condo complex cafe and Darjeeling tea sprang out, a foreshadow to something I definitely want and have to see. A tall African doorman reminiscent of the Green Mile miracle worker...in pajamas. Walking from one massive building past the rest on barren sidewalks. 8am and the sun has catapulted into the hazy sky. A manicured park and an empty playground. I lie on the grass and become a spectacle to children and men alike. There are enough Westerners around to make me think I stick out for other reasons. Fully covered from chin to toe, but maybe too clingy for ultimate modesty.

The harbor is gorgeous, and the buildings fall into the ocean; but I feel like the sun is taking my life away from me. Only makes me angrier at the hundreds of men who stare, and photograph, without shame at my passing presence. I have had no water, but I sweat like death is stalking me. Roughly ten other women out - never alone. I'm alone. I wonder what that implies in Doha.

Big water bottles are mere cents, and a cross-eyed old man finally shows me the smiles I miss. I have to wipe my visage dry, and my sleeve comes back sopping. A coffee shop is no mirage as I follow the arch's shadow across seven lanes of traffic to its air-conditioned wonders. Massive screens showing the programs I know and miss, and he cranks the volume to accompany harmoniously the wall's waterfall. I sit with my bag off to receive the mighty wind, and it chills me back to life. I cannot move for hours, and my thumbs recount the story of my heated day to all with e-mails. I can think no more.

To ask and to wander brings about what I needed and wanted to my stomach; whatever they say, so I shall have. And it sprawls the plate, a chicken on her bed, with veggies and spices to bare. I am drained and filled, and my heart beats in my stomach. I braved a new world I knew little truth about, and though all the big bros were watching, never did I feel afraid. Our movies don't show the good people in civies.