Five Trips

I could do this

This year’s travel is light. A three day canoeing trip in July, New York City in early August, and Langhorne, PA. I am looking forward to a relaxing summer of writing, reading, and gaining weight. However, as I’m not doing much in the way of adventure travel, I am naturally spending hours looking at destinations I’d like to visit. Researching trips I can’t go on for a year is the sort of a sadistic self-torture my thirteen year old (read: twenty-nine) self used to enjoy while looking at Playboy (read: Granny Fanny).

In any event, here are five trips that I want to take now, but can’t. Yes, the research for this post was a thing of beauty.

The Trans-Siberian Railway

There’s nothing about this that I don’t love, but I’ll sum it up: An epic train journey across Russia, Mongolia, and China. These are three countries I have long wanted to visit and this would allow me to see them all in one blast. And my favorite way to travel is by train. I would pass the winding hours between stops writing and reading and rocking back and forth. And, according to sources, get ordered around by the stern provodnitsas, the (evidently) dominatrix-like cabin orderlies.

Just a few of the things that this trip would feature are Moscow, Lake Ural, Beijing, Mongolia, the Steppe, Lake Baikal, Siberia, and Irkutsk (the Paris of Siberia). Along the way I want to hawk for a fur cap, buy smoked fish, and take in the insanely beautiful scenery. Oh, plus, Russian vodka for breakfast. Yes, please.

Fishing in Alaska

Most of the things I thought I knew about Alaska I learned from Northern Exposure. These things were eventually offset by the film The Edge and Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. I am so attracted to the idea of a five day fly fishing trip in the wilds of Alaska, the vastness of the country, the wildlife. For most people, it’s a once in a lifetime experience. The prospect is as exciting as it is terrifying.

Oh, I have done my share of the outdoors, kayaking, camping, a ton of fishing. My cousin and I spent a month camping and fishing in the vast back countries of the Sawtooth Mountains, Olympic National Park, and Montana’s Glacier Park. It was one of the most wonderful summers of my entire life.

And one of the scariest.

I am not a Marlboro Man and I admit freely that I spent a lot of that time terrified. It was a hell of a shock to throw a city slicker into the wilderness, more than ten miles from another human. There’s a lot happening in the great outdoors. Deep black storm clouds are a hell of a lot more daunting when you’re watching it from your tent in the mountains and not your flat in Prague 4. A pile of steaming bear shit is a genuine source of terror. And to get lost in Montana’s back country could mean that you end up as a (hopefully) search and rescue.

There’s just as much not happening. The daily sounds I’d grown so accustomed to – cars, bickering neighbors, trains, television – were gone, and in the overwhelming quiet I found that my head was a scary place. But that fear and anxiety gave me a lot of insight and the rigors of camping and having to catch food (or you ate oatmeal or white rice for the ninth straight day) forced that city slicker to work hard and get things done. And I loved it. Oh, it goes without saying that that Alaskan fishing trip would be guided. And maybe catered.

Driving around Sicily

This would be a family thing, because if I did this without including my dad I’m pretty sure he’d write me out of the will. And I really want that pen collection! I spent some time in Sicily many years ago, but it was rather brief. Since then I have been dying to get back. Why?

Well, Messina is something out of a movie. Palm trees, the sea, little cafes on a wide road serving delicacies that would make your doctor up your cholesterol medicine on spec. We hiked up to the huge church ringing its bells above the city and found within a monument to the town’s casualties from the World Wars.

The small towns are another draw. I visited my great grandmother’s hometown it was not hard to see why she left. It was a tiny mountain town with no stoplights and a dried up lake. However, Sicily is teeming with charming coastal and hill towns. The food and culture is another huge draw. I want to sit in a shady restaurant drinking wine and grappa and eating seafood and pasta while my dad over-pronounces the Italian. If we’re lucky, we might even get to run away from an angry waiter if my dad decides to correct his pronunciation.

Mosque in Imam Square, Isfahan Iran.


The Middle East captured my heart on my first visit to Jordan, Egypt, and Israel about twelve (wtf!? Piss off, time!) years ago. There is something about the mystery and ancient history that attracts me like no other region. These places were old when other ancient cultures were newborns. And a lot of it still around; this blows my mind.

Go look at any pictures of Iran and you’ll want to come with me. There’s Shiraz, the poetic heart of Iran, discovering the ancient, pre-Islamic Zoroastrian influence in Yazd. There’s the ancient capital of Persepolis and Isfahan, where the old Gheisariyeh bazaar still stands, surrounded by passageways dedicated to different artisans and crafts.

This is what I fell in love with twelve years ago, the ancient culture, cuisine (hello saffron and chicken and kebabs!), and a peek into what life looked like 2,000 years ago.

Saudi Arabia

For motivations see the above section. But primarily I am interested in Al-Ula county, which is an area where huge amounts of well-preserved structures from the Nabataeans still remain. This is supposed to be the next big heritage destination as archaeologists have found hundreds of cairns, structures, and tombs along the Al-Ula, which would have been a massive trading route. Mada’in Salih encompasses 111 tombs carved into rocky outcrops and are so far shrouded in mystery. There is also rock art and text which pre-dates the written word.

I want to see it all! But not til next year.

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