The Newest Dream – Africa!

Almost exactly one year ago, I was leaving to head to Iran for the trip of a lifetime. But with luck, I’ve got a whole lifetime still ahead of me, so it’s time to start dreaming about the newest journey. Of course I have my bucket list of places still to go, Croatia, Romania, etc., but once again, I am dreaming of a more exotic locale for my next trip.


That’s right. Queue Toto. Africa!

I started thinking about Africa because a friend of mine is in the Peace Corps in Namibia, a country in Southern Africa, just to the NW of South Africa. Of course, I could go to South Africa, but as you know, I’m always up for something a bit different. So, I’ve decided to focus my goal on Tanzania, on the East Coast of the continent, just south of Kenya.

How did I choose Tanzania?

  1. It was recommended by a friend who has been there and knows me well enough to understand that I’m looking for more than just a pretty place and a relaxing vacation.
  2. The country is a fascinating mix of different cultures including over 120 indigenous groups, Pakistani, Indian, Arab, and European. Should be enough history and culture to keep my brain buzzing.
  3.  Zanzibar (islands off the coast of Tanzania) and beaches. For some reason, ever since my trip to Iran, I’ve been craving turquoise water and palm trees
  4. Multiple National Parks and Preserves make seeing African wildlife easy and more environmentally friendly.

Now that I’ve chosen my country, I need to start narrowing down some other logistics through research and further dreaming.

  • Begin by planning some sort of itinerary. I usually look at guided tours to start, review the most popular destinations, decide what is most interesting to me, and then start looking at things off the beaten path after that.
  • Save the money. This is going to be the hard part for me. Due to rising rent increases in Portland (mine went up over 50% last year), I ended up buying a house. The American Dream, right? Not mine! But here I am, and now I need to balance savings for home emergencies with a travel fund.
  • Save my time off. I’d love to take 3 weeks for a trip like this, so I either need to save all of my time off for the year, or I need to be prepared to not get paid for a few days. Worst case, I only go for 2, but I’m going to set my goal at 3.
  • Stay motivated! Read lots of books set in Tanzania, both travel books, but also histories and historical fictions. Find blogs by other people who have traveled there recently.

Be prepared for more blogs on my planning process, hopefully they’ll be of some help and inspiration for you to explore new places. Don’t know where to start? Let me know, I’d love to help!



A Tale of Two Trips

I’m turning 35 in December, and for some reason I’m having some anxiety about it. My gut is telling me to go on a grand adventure for the occasion.  So the question is where?

My family and friends have been very helpful in providing me with lists of options that don’t involve the Middle East. Much to their chagrin, however, I’ve narrowed the options down to Iran or Egypt.

Sorry family and friends (not sorry).

Iran has provided a unique challenge in that it’s really a very inexpensive place to visit, but because Americans are required to have a tour guide, the prices have been pretty ridiculous. It’s taken a good 3 months for me to figure out that sometimes you just have to be persistent.  The whole experience has been frustrating and discouraging, honestly. The American and British tour companies are exorbitantly expensive, and the Iranian companies are hard to work with because of cultural differences/language barriers. But, with lots and lots of sleuthing and some pushing, I may have found a tour that works with my budget.

There are clearly some obstacles to going to Iran. I’m closely watching the political situation, and there’s no guarantee I’ll get a visa, but I am currently feeling hopeful.

My second option is Egypt. Truth be told I haven’t done much research on this option yet, mostly because I just came up with the idea this week (after weeks of trying to find a suitable alternative to Iran). However, I have a friend who has spent a lot of time there and has already supplied me with a great starting point for my research. It’ll be much less expensive than Iran (or it should be) and it’s easier to get to but still has all of the ancient history that I’m interested in.

So I think that as far as adventures go, it’s looking pretty good for me!

Now, who wants to come with me?

More on Choices

When a friend of mine returned from the Peace Corps, she experienced more culture shock than when she first moved to a remote village in Eastern Europe. It took her a couple of weeks to be able to go into a grocery store due to anxiety – there are too many options. (There is even a blog post dedicated to how to choose yogurt…).

Her anxiety is exactly what I feel when I’m trying to plan a trip and don’t know exactly where I should go. Just look at my previous blog posts. One day I’m focused on Morocco, the next day Prague and Vienna. Then I’m considering going to Greece or even back to Turkey. Then a friend suggests South Africa, another says New Zealand, and my mom says Spain.

It’s so overwhelming.

My brain churns through the data- “the weather here will be better, but there’s not as much ancient history. This location isn’t as safe and my family and friends will freak out; I really want to go here, but it’s too expensive.”

Decision fatigue sets in and I end up spending the evening eating pizza rolls and watching terrible television.

I’m a pretty organized person, so I’m tempted to start a list of the places that I’m considering and weigh the pros and cons, which as LifeHacker points out, can help eliminate decision fatigue.
But when it really comes down to it, I think the best way to make a decision like this is to stop thinking about it for a few days and wait for your gut to tell you what to do.
Interestingly, this is an email I received from The Universe this morning:
“Confusion, indecision, and uncertainty, Jessica,
often mean that if you wait a little longer before deciding,
an even better option will emerge,
with such clarity it may bite you on the nose and sweep you off your feet.
The nice kind of bite.
I’d say wait a little longer,
The Universe.”
Postscript: Not an hour after initially pushing this post live, I came upon this interesting App that helps you decide where to travel to. Can’t hurt to try it!

Considering Options

Lest you think I’m only considering traveling to SE Turkey, here are some of the other places/activities I’m considering:

Places I would go alone:
  • Prague, Vienna, Budapest – This would likely be a late November/early December trip so I can be there during the Christmas bazaars and festivals.
  • Croatia – Spoken extremely highly of by some friends who have been. I’m particularly interested in the beautiful scenery and water activities.
  • Jordan – Petra!  Though I might look into a tour for this location, not sure yet…
  • Armenia – Another set of friends went to Armenia and absolutely loved it. I haven’t done too much research yet, but seems like another great place for ancient history.
Places I would go only on group tours
  • Morocco – Camping in the Sahara!
  • SE Turkey – Ancient history!
Group tour activities I am considering:

The Newest Conundrum

Much to the chagrin of some of my closest family and friends, I have never been one to do anything simple. For college, I flew across the country to attend a school that I’d never even visited. I studied in Northern Ireland for a year, leaving a week after the 9/11 attacks. 

I also enjoy doing things that aren’t the common activities. Yes, Israel is interesting, but Morocco is interesting AND exotic. Who wants to go hiking in the Grand Canyon when you can go hiking in Cappadocia, Turkey?  (Ok, some people would rather do those things, and that’s wonderful. But I’m not normal…)
Add to all of this my personal fascination with ancient religion and traditions, and well, there are limited places that I have interest in.
After my previous trip to Western Turkey, including just Istanbul and Cappadocia, I’ve felt myself wondering what’s next for me. Morocco is on the top of my list, but I was extremely tired of the harassment I received from the men in Istanbul, and I’ve heard it’s much worse in Morocco. I’ve also been considering Budapest, Vienna, and Prague, but I feel like there’s plenty of time left in my life to go there.
The Middle East is a mess. I know it is. And people keep telling me to wait until it settles down. But here’s what I think. It’s not going to settle down. Not in my life time while I have the money and freedom to go (aka no family, kids, etc). And also there’s the high probability that a lot of the sites I want to visit won’t even exist in a few years. Militants and wars have destroyed Millennial-old archaeological sites in Iraq.
I’d been considering Iran for a while. I know that more and more people are going from the West, especially from Great Britain. I’ve been particularly interested in Persia since College, and to actually go there would be a dream. However, I’ve recently come to learn about something even older than anything found anywhere else in the World. The site is called Gobekli Tepe and it is in Eastern Turkey. I’ll talk more about the site in later posts, but add it to all of the Hittite sites and other historical sites, my stomach is all a-flutter about it. AND, there are a couple of tour companies that do trips specifically for people like me.
Obviously there is much research to do, but I’m afraid my family and friends may just have to have some patience with me. I’m fully aware of what’s happening with ISIL in Syria and I am watching carefully and talking to friends and others in Turkey about the situation. I’m not buying a ticket yet, but I am looking into it.
However, I’m also still eyeing Budapest/Vienna/Prague as a very excellent backup visit.  Or maybe I’ll just save my money and time off and wait another year.  Maybe you can help me figure it out? But please don’t assume I’m just going to go deposit myself in the center of a dangerous situation. Ok? Ok.