In my last post, I explained some of the travel philosophies that guide my decision making not just about where I travel, but how. And part of that is picking places to go that get me really excited.
In terms of cool places to go, here’s what I'm either working on, or considering for 2017:
Sometimes when a trend appears, I tend to look the other way. My natural inclination is to carve my own path, as I don’t want to get caught up in the crowd. But when a photographer friend returned from Cuba and raved about how fantastic it is, I put it at the top of my list.
That’s why I’m packing my Bluffs and heading to Havana.
Our plan is to explore Havana and then get out of the city towards the west, including Vinales. The landscape comes out of the ground, almost like Vietnam, and there are caves you can explore by boat. Think tropical island meets rugged mountaineering. I’m excited to see where the road takes us.
This first visit will be focused on connecting with a friend there and soaking up what Cuba is all about. If my trip were more open-ended, my preference would be to go the slow way and hitchhike across the country to the east. Hitching is officially sanctioned in Cuba, with designated stops. It’s a great way to connect with people and get to know the country more personally.
Sail Across The Ocean
After I graduated from college, I took two months off before going to work in software. And my dream was to sail across the Atlantic.
So, I bought a one-way ticket to Tortola, British Virgin Islands where I found passage as crew on a sailboat to Bermuda, and then another across the pond to the Azores, off Portugal. It was life-changing, and I’d love to do it again.
With the demands of family and running Bluffworks, this type of trip probably isn't in the cards for me right now. But I have a sense you guys would like to know how to do it to pour gas on your dreams, so I'm thinking about documenting my approach. Maybe a late spring weekend in Bermuda will be in order.
The last time I was there, I borrowed a dinghy, rowed out to the mooring field, and in one hour’s time had four offers of passage to Europe. It’s all possible. Yiu can make it across. It just takes time, and a bit of courage.
Hiking High and Eating Well
I know a lot of us like to hike. But, even more like to follow a hike with a great meal.
After spending a day working hard and eating out of my backpack, coming back to a nice dinner in a cozy setting makes the meal explode in Technicolor.
And undoubtedly the best place to experience this is in Europe, where you can find outstanding hiking and world-class eats in one package.
I’m thinking about day hikes high in the Alps that end in small village restaurants. Or going hut to hut. Last summer in France, I passed a hiking hut serving beautiful plates of eggs, salad, sausage and cheese, hot drinks, and more… high above treeline.
France, Italy, Switzerland. There are so many places you can enjoy this experience. Hand me a pack, stuff in my blazer, plus a pair pants for hiking in style, and I’ll climb above tree line by day, and then giggle with pleasure over the food at night.
A Packraft Trip
Back to boats: I feel trapped when I am near water without being able to get out on it.
So a packraft is perfect for me. What’s a packraft? They are small, extremely lightweight, and typically built to hold only one or two people. Because they’re so light — often weighing just five pounds — you can easily take them anywhere.
I once did a day trip down a river in France, punctuated by inns with fantastic restaurants that used to be mills. Spending a few days doing that could be great.
There are lots of other options for an awesome packraft trip. Float and hike in Southern Utah. Or a remote river trip in Alaska. Either way, the freedom of being able to carry a boat on your back is liberating.
The United Kingdom
Another option for Europe is the U.K. and with the pound so low, it seems like it would be a shame not to make it there. Consider: it's like getting 40% off a trip you would have taken a couple of years ago.
I find the UK to be deeply satisfying. Language is easy, and the friendliness and hospitality of people in the Scottish countryside or Irish highlands for example, is real.
With our packable blazer, now I can take advantage of that hospitality respectfully. Maybe get a dapper wool Irish cap to go with it. So I’m dreaming of long walks over rolling green fields, friendly pubs full of good conversations (and good beer), and ballads that make me melt. It sounds ridiculous; peril awaits those who over-romanticize a trip. But the reality isn’t too far off.
The English like to walk, and I’m thinking of either The National Trails in England or The Scottish National Trail. And because I think the best hiking pants also happen to be the best travel pants, I'm all set to walk the highlands during the day, and feel right at home at the local at night.
Spring Break in Belize
My family has two weeks off in April, and I’ll be damned if we don’t take advantage of it.
One of the best trips we ever took was to Belize on a prior spring break, and we’re ready to go again. No doubt people have heard of the snorkeling and diving in Belize. But it also has a whole interior full of jungles and navigable caves. The county is both well setup for travel, and seemingly empty. When we were there, we kept thinking, “Where is everybody?”
My favorite spots are:
- Slickrock Adventures on Glover’s Reef. A private island on the furthest offshore reef. Focused on sports (windsurfing, kiting, snorkel, scuba, wave kayaking, standup paddle board…), all your gear, instruction, and food is included. A primitive island, it runs with no electricity, solar heated showers, composting toilets. You get dinner in a palapa with a sand floor. It’s the place to go. Tell Cully I sent you.
- Caves Branch Lodge. Also all-inclusive with meals and daily trips built-in. Back at the lodge, there are canopy treehouse accommodations and hot tubs, but the days are filled with guided trips to rappel down waterfalls or tube into caves. Attentive staff sees to your every need.
If you make it to Belize, email me and I’ll tell you where the bar-b-que master of Belize lives. You can have a feast in his front yard, but it has to be a Saturday; it’s the only day they cook.
There are so many options for fun places to go. I’m hoping this will be the year for a big trip.
What's on your travel agenda for 2017? Where are some cool places to visit? Let me know where you end up.