2016 in Review
2016 proved to be an unexpectedly big year for me on the travel front. Not only did I make the big move back to China and fall head over heels for a fellow travel blogger, I also managed to make it to ten countries in a year I’d planned to be ‘a quiet one’.
I fell in love with Taiwan, spent a fantastic ten days exploring Malaysian Borneo, lived the luxury life in the Maldives, toured four African countries, revisited Singapore, spent three weeks relaxing in The Philippines, and embarked on the five-week Great US Road Trip.
Places I’m Dying to Visit in 2017
Already in 2017, I’ve made a quick jaunt across to South Korea, spent two weeks exploring gorgeous Sumatra, and spent a week learning more about Lingshui, Hainan.
That doesn’t mean I’m done, though! Here are five countries I’m dying to visit (or revisit) in 2017.
#5 – Indonesia
It may seem odd that I’ve only just returned from my ten day exploration of Sumatra (in which I managed to break my arm) and I’m still including Indonesia on my list, but people often forget just how big the archipelago is.
My travels thus far have taken me to Sumatra, the Komodo Islands, and Lombok – but there’s still a lot of Australia’s northern neighbour that I’d love to explore someday.
Bali is arguably Australia’s favourite foreign playground, and while I’m not a huge fan of its crowds of singlet wearing bogans, I wouldn’t feel right having never seen it.
For those less crowded places in Indonesia, there is a wealth of spots still needing to be explored. There’s the idyllic backpacker paradise of Gili Trawanagan near Lombok, the volcanic islands of East Java, a chance to revisit and scuba dive the Komodo Islands, the temptation to take a longer Sumatran orangutan trek, and more.
The country’s capital, Jakarta, has a rich history that makes it worth exploring. Borobodur, a historic temple, is one of the landmarks that should be included in your itinerary.
Then there’s Raja Ampat in the nation’s south – an isolated haven for scuba divers and those willing to forego creature comforts in exchange for genuine peace and quiet.
#4 – Ethiopia
The only entry on this list that I know for sure I will get to in 2016, Ethiopia is a nation that has long fascinated me and that I am thrilled to have the opportunity to explore next May. CNN Travel certainly agree that Ethiopia is one of the world’s best tourism destinations.
Distinct from its neighbouring countries, Ethiopia has a really intriguing blend of Christian and Muslim historical sites that makes it a great place for lovers of history. With a unique landscape of craggy mountains and open plains, there’s an alien appeal to the country.
Bustling Addis Ababa (home to arguably the worst airport I’ve ever had to kill time in) might not be of huge appeal to me, but there’s a melting pot of cultures and beliefs on display here that exists in stark contrast to the unflinching beauty of ancient Lalibela, where Christianity’s history is preserved as something wildly different to the religion as it exists today.
Ethiopia is also a safari destination, and seeing animals new and old against a new backdrop is always a thrill.
#3 – Japan
I’ve technically already been to Japan, but I’m certain my three day visa run to Fukuoka in 2009 really didn’t do this ancient country justice.
I want to walk cherry blossom strewn streets, sing myself hoarse in boozy karaoke bars, marvel at the high-tech gadgets and bizarrely dressed students, visit historic sites such as Hiroshima, enjoy a moment’s quiet contemplating at a shrine, attend a J-League game, and just embrace the zany fusion of western and eastern ideals that has made Japan such a fascinating place.
Oh, and I want to eat all of the sushi.
On a more serious note, there’s also an academic region I’d like to spend more time in Japan. Having lived in two countries with a decidedly negative view of Japan, I’m also eager to better understand how the Japanese people view their role in 20th century history and how this compares to Chinese and Korean recollections of events.
#2 – Peru
South America remains the one inhabited continent that continues to elude me, and it was hard as hell choosing just one country to include on the list.
In the end, the lure of Machu Picchu was just too great to ignore. I’ve long been fascinated with Incan culture, and visiting its most famed historic site would be a real thrill.
Of course, there’s far more to Peru than just Machu Picchu.
There’s the vastness of the Amazon, the mysterious Nazca Lines that the X-Files fan in me is obsessed with seeing, beaches, mountains, and everything in between.
There’s also the pretty girls and the pisco sour too. Can’t overlook that.
#1 – Iceland
It’s perhaps become a bit of a cliche among travel bloggers to talk about Iceland, but the obsession with this beautiful country is certainly warranted.
Every photo I see and every story I read paints such a tempting picture.
Where do I even start?
There’s the world-famous Blue Lagoon where a thousand thousand selfies have been taken.
There’s the opportunity to scuba dive the tectonic plate between two continents.
There’s the many Golden Circle tours that cover one of the most visually stunning countries in the world.
There’s the unique blend of arctic and volcanic landscapes that seems like something out of science fiction.
There are the northern lights and one of the best views of them you’re ever likely to find.
With my 2016 travels taking me to Sweden, I might just need to extend my trip a little so that I can fit a little more of Europe in, and you’d best believe that Iceland will be the first country on my dance card if that happens.
What five countries are you dying to visit in 2016?