These are the 10 trips I Would Take Right Now If I Wasn’t Country Collecting

My pursuit of all the countries of the world has had me defer some of the trips highest on my wish list.

  1. The WWII sites of Normandy. I have visited WWI sites around Europe and WWII sites around the world, even Iwo Jima. I still have not been to Normandy. As an aside, the Channel Islands, particularly Guernsey, are a little-known treat, a melange of British culture and French food, and the only UK territories occupied by the Germans.
  2. Hokkaido, the big, northern island of Japan. I have been to the three other main islands along with Okinawa. I would find it hard to decide between summer and winter. Japan is among my favorite countries.
  3. Kamchatka, in the Russian Far East, think Lord of the Rings/New Zealand on volcanic steroids. With the Ruble in the tank this extremely expensive destination is more within reach with the right group of adventurers.
  4. The Great Migration in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, along with crater lakes of the Northern Circuit and out to the riverine border with DR Congo for chimpanzee tracking at Gombe Stream National Park, the base of Jane Goodall. Zanzibar is a great post-safari add-on,  as the resorts are on the desolate east of the island and the thinking traveler can enjoy Stone Town’s guest houses and Indo-African food. This is the last big Africa trip I want to take.
  5. The Red Crab Migration at Australia’s Christmas Island. Perth is a long flight from the US and Christmas Island is 5 hours from there. I have tried for several years to go and the schedule has never worked. The local tourism authority and Australia Parks forecast 3-4 time blocks each year that they may migrate, from Oct-Jan. They don’t know until 1-2 weeks out and most likely are around US Thanksgiving and Christmas when tickets out that way are hard to come by. I am allergic to crab so it may not be wise to go to an island enveloped by a tide of crabs.
  6. Southwest USA. I am ashamed to say I have only seen the Grand Canyon on flights out of Las Vegas, which I only visit for work. I have never been to Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Montana or the great Redwood forests of California.
  7. Newfoundland, Canada. Whale watching in St John’s. French smuggling entrepot St. Pierre & Miquelon. The first Viking landing sites. National parks top to toe. The Canadian Dollar is way down to the US Dollar.
  8. Patagonia. Latin America and I have never gelled. Too many rice and beans countries and not enough Peru cuisine and fruits. Venezuela is my favorite and when the country recovers, I will race back. For now, Patagonia beckons and I would slip in a side trip to Chile’s Robinson Crusoe Island in the Juan Fernandez Archipelago, along with some hot dogs in Santiago.
  9. Socotra Island, Yemen. The ongoing devastation of Yemen is strangling the ‘Galapagos of the Indian Ocean.’ The island remains remote and peaceful. It is the Saudi-imposed no-fly zone that prevents even the former charter flights from Dubai.
  10. The Silk Road in China, the only repeat on this list. I lived in China for 8 years and have visited every province. My two favorite trips are Sichuan (Chengdu’s temple tea houses, pandas, Leshan Great Buddha, the monkeys and temples of Emeishan, the ancient hydraulic works of Dujiangyan) and the Silk Road stretch from Dunhuang to Turpan. Dunhuang’s painted grottoes are the most spectacular Buddhist site I have seen. Turpan in Xinjiang boasts magnificent Silk Road ruins and the incredible Uyghur food, a blend of flavors of Central Asia and China. This is not the dry kebabs with tomato and cucumber salad that cover much of the Silk Road and Middle East. These are richly spiced meat, vegetable (a rare thing!), wheat and rice dishes that I adore. Uzbekistan rules the plov/pilaf roost, otherwise this is the best vittles on the Silk Road.

Readers, what is on your travel wish list?

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  • Wendy

    I want to go to Hawaii….it is the only state I haven’t visited. Another item on my list is the Canadian Rockies in winter. Also want to take the Alaskan Marine Highway (ferry) in the middle of winter between Bellingham Washington and Skagway. Australia and New Zealand with a side trip to roratonga where my dad was stationed in ww2.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Wendy – those all sound awesome, and the Alaskan Marine Highway is totally new to me, I have not visited and that sounds like a great, offbeat way to do it. I have been researching the weekly LAX-Roratonga flight on Air New Zealand, with booking far out or luck you can snag a coach award, business in all its unheard of, that can work well as a stopover on your way to/from NZ. Are there any extant WWII sites left?

  • Great list. (I can personally vouch for Newfoundland and Grand Canyon.) Kamchatka sounds beautiful/fascinating.

  • Denise

    I’d like to go to Prince Edward Island, Canada ( loved the Anne of Green Gables series). I’ve been to Australia & New Zealand. Would love to go back to NZ. Also, I’d like to go back to Singapore ……one day !!!!
    P.S. I live in Hawaii ( Maui ). I visit the PNW and east coast twice a year

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Denise – PEI is one of our top favorites, here’s one of several posts I have written on it, absolutely encourage you to go!

  • James Kunz

    Keeping to your idea — placed I’d like to go to, but am not prioritizing due to a desire to see new countries — I’ll echo your Normandy (and more of France in general for me) point, and add the UK to the list, since I’ve only been to London and a few nearby places

  • Newfoundland also makes a great stopover if you’re booking a points ticket to the East Coast. I visited for four days before going to a conference in Halifax, without spending any extra points. If your final destination happens to be YYZ or YHZ, you can go crazy as I did and schedule an 8-hour layover in YDF, enough for a quick tour of Gros Morne National Park.

  • Cj

    Stefan – you will love Utah,Colorado, new mexico,arizona/the 4 corners – I’m just finishing up a 15 day drive thru all 4 states plus Nevada and cali – 2 of my favorites was the drive thru moab,Utah and The arches canyon and canyon land truly amazing – I posted pictures on my Facebook travel blog 12 step nomad or 12stepnomad.Com sold bring you there .
    Your 1 of my travel hero’s I’m up to 80 country’s now and hope to hit 100 by year’s end -I travel full time and getting ready for a 9 week trip thur Europe knocking out most if not all of Europe
    My Facebook page I mainly just post pictures and airfare deals as when I write a blog post it gets buried but 1 post I think you will like is march 30 it was my last post until I start a real website.
    If you have time check it out – love the not normal places you go -love you site

  • John

    Took the family car camping in Hokkaido last summer and we are headed to the Southwest this summer.

    Hokkaido is better in the summer, and the driving is easy. If you ski, then obviously winter is the time to go, but if you’re driving then, you’re looking at maintaining speeds at the 50km/hr limit. There’s a lot of snow on the ground, but that also means nice powder on the slopes. The Hilton Niseko makes a decent base, and is one of the few international hotel chain options in the entire island. Shiretoko is pristine as is Daisetsuzan. Even when it is high season, the place is not crowded. I am not looking forward to the Southwest and all the crowds this summer.

    Visited Patagonia during Spring Break while in college. Still remember some of the best fried fish in my life in Punta Arenas. But it took three days on buses to get there from Buenos Aires. Those were different days…before LCCs, cheap FF points, free VOIP calls, digital cameras and social media.

    The three places on my list that I still want to hit are Great Migration/Kilimanjaro, Machu Picchu, and Madagascar. I figure all three are doable with the family. The Karakoram Highway used to be on the list. I got as far as Tashkurgan in Xinjiang, but I have no interest in crossing that border at this point.

    Would like to hear more about how you plan to tackle Kamchatka…I know air service from South Korea makes the Russian Far East more accessible now. I remember back in the day when I dreamed about flying to Madagan on Alaska Airlines with my paltry Northwest Worldperks account. Didn’t know jack about Madagan, but it seemed like somewhere far away yet actually attainable if I could top off my mileage balance (that still sounds familiar 🙂 ).

  • Nice list and I love the idea of this post! Patagonia is amazing and exhausting! We never felt such aches and pains in our legs before or since! The views and memories made it well worth it though.

    I’d love to go to Churchill, Canada to do a polar bear tour. See the Northern Lights, go to Jellyfish Lake in Palau, see Iguazu Falls, Angel Falls & Victoria Falls and many destinations in Africa. I’m also leaving tons of other things out…

  • Jamie

    Asia is where my mind is right now. Our first foray was Japan last year, tacked onto a work trip for my husband. So, we spent time in Tokyo, Kobe, Osaka, and Kyoto. We really loved it. Our kids enjoyed it as well.
    So, next I have my eye on Hong Kong, and then maybe Singapore.
    Those are probably the “easy” Asian destinations, but that’s our speed right now. (Or maybe always, i.e. We loved Italy, but find it a bit crazy there). I didn’t prepare much for Japan and was surprised at how difficult it was, with not that much English spoke and the characters on signs completely unintelligible to be. Yes, this shouldn’t have been surprising, but I’d gotten complacent from easily traversing European countries whose language I didn’t speak.
    Closer to home, I’ve never explored the northeast (other than NYC and Boston), and would love to go up there. Portland, ME looks great. I love seafood and so do my husband and kids.
    Southwest is a bit of a black hole for me too. Never been to Arizona, Texas, New Mexico. Driven through the western states of Utah, Montana, Idaho etc when moving from Iowa to California and then back to Wisconsin. Oh and crazy enough to do a family road trip from Chicago to San Francisco. My thoughts while we drove through Idahao were “No wonder Demi Moore lives here. It’s gorgeous!”
    Driving on hwy 50 though Utah and Nevada is like driving across Mars. Worth experiencing once.
    On the first trip to California we had this road atlas with petroglyphs sites marked on it (oh how I wish I could find that map again) and would just pull off the road where ever we saw that piled-up-rocks symbol. So cool!
    Thanks for kicking off a great discussion!

  • john

    Kamchatka is a big one for me. Together with any other arctic or antarctic tour I could afford. Otherwise most of your is on my list too. Most is for the far off future though.

  • DaveS

    I too prioritize new countries but return to see more also at times in ones I’ve been to before. I board a flight to South Island (NZ) in two hours and am going back to Brazil for the Olympics. For new places, Tonga, Cuba and the Caucases on the horizon this summer.

  • Steve

    Hi Stefan, got any recommended things to see while I’m in Changsha, Hunan Province this summer?

  • @Steve – the new museum in town is good, otherwise much of the best is out of town. Mao’s hometown Shaoshan you can pull off as a day trip. The southern Daoist holy mountain Heng Shan would be an overnight. Zhangjiajie (the place that inspired Avatar) is a little more remote and worth the effort.

    All the food is hot chili spicy.

  • Andrew C

    Oh my gosh, I love the idea of this list. I’m not a country collector (but of course I keep track) so I don’t feel constrained in the same way, but I feel as though I could list 50 and just keep going. Probably good to stay better organized with my ideas on this! Although my list is probably unordered, Churchill MB, mentioned above, features highly not only for the polar bears, but also the name (it’s Andrew C, after all!)

    Also, HIGHLY recommend SW US. The scenery is other-worldly in some parts, and you still find pockets of small-town charm. Not necessarily suited to rapid travel, but many fond memories of different trips around those areas.

  • BJ

    Go to Normandy on D-Day’s anniversary some year. I just went, and the atmosphere is amazing- the Air Force was doing flyovers, people were very happy to see all nationalities, and the parades of vintage military vehicles was fascinating as a WWII buff. Bayeux is a neat town nearby too (and it has a tapestry!)

  • italdesign

    Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong are among the most beautiful places I have ever visited; highly recommended if you haven’t been. Dunhuang looks amazing. Would love to see that part of China. Great list.