Travel

A friend of mine, Richard Bangs, has a piece of advice I've tried to follow: One should make a trip of a lifetime at least once per year.  Further, I think one can learn from a scrawled question in the Journals of Dan Eldon: "What's the difference between exploring and being lost?  The journey is the destination". For day to day living, I believe in the German phrase Stadtluft macht frei: "city air makes one free", but for holidays I occasionally like to get as far to the middle of nowhere as possible.

The Traveler's Century Club is for people who have visited at least 100 countries, where they (quite arbitrarily) define countries as places that are politically, ethnologically, or geographically distinct.  They define 317 such countries, but I've so far only visited 60.

Included in that list are the following week-or-more trips I've made:

  • New Zealand, Bora Bora, Australia, August 2004
  • Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, March 2004
  • Marrakech and the Canary Islands, February 2004
  • Buenos Aires and Antarctica, December 2003
  • Ecuador and the Galapagos, July 2003
  • Croatia, April 2003
  • Ghana, December 2002
  • Grand Canyon, Colorado, September 2002
  • Namibia and South Africa, March 2002
  • Paris & Toulouse, July 2001
  • Machu Picchu, Peru, April 2001
  • Paris, Florence, and Venice, May 2000
  • Uganda, January 2000
  • Cataract Canyon, Colorado, September 1999
  • Owahee River, Idaho, April 1999
  • Bali, September 1998
  • Corsica & Nice, May 1998
  • Costa Rica, December 1997
  • Cinque Terre, Italy, November 1996
  • Martinique and Grenadines, April 1996
  • London, Paris, Cologne, Prague, Budapest, Interlaken, Vienna, Rome, Florence, Corfu, Athens, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Cairo, and Istanbul, April-May, 1993
  • Spain, France, and Italy, June 1985

Here's a New York Times article on the TCC and one from Travel & Leisure.  The above trips break out into the following countries visited so far:

Pacific Ocean

  1. Galapagos Islands [August 2003]
  2. New Zealand [August 2004]
  3. French Polynesia [August 2004]
  4. Australia [August 2004]

North America

  1. Canada [June 1985]
  2. United States (Continental) [November 1972]

Central America

  1. Costa Rica [December 1997]

South America

  1. Argentina [December 2003]
  2. Ecuador [July 2003]
  3. Peru [April 2001]

Caribbean

  1. Martinique [April 1996]
  2. Puerto Rico [December 1979]
  3. St. Vincent & Deps. (Bequia, Canouan, Grenadines) [April 1996]
  4. Turks & Caicos Islands [*April 1996]

Atlantic Ocean

  1. Canary Islands [February 2004]
  2. Iceland [*June 1985, ]

Europe & Mediterranean

  1. Austria [April 1993]
  2. Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Minorca) [June 1985]
  3. Bosnia & Herzegovina (Sarajevo) [*April 2003]
  4. Corsica [May 1998]
  5. Croatia [April 2003]
  6. Czech Federated Rep. [April 1993]
  7. England [January 1993]
  8. Finland [November 1999]
  9. France [June 1985]
  10. Germany [April 1993]
  11. Gibraltar [June 1985]
  12. Greece [April 1993]
  13. Hungary [April 1993]
  14. Ionian Islands (Corfu, etc.) [April 1993]
  15. Italy [June 1985]
  16. Monaco [April 2000]
  17. Netherlands [May 2000]
  18. Scotland [October 1996]
  19. Slovakia [*April 1993]
  20. Spain [June 1985]
  21. Sweden [May 2002]
  22. Switzerland [October 1996]
  23. Turkey in Europe (Istanbul) [April 1993]
  24. Vatican City [June 1985]

Africa

  1. Botswana (Bechuanaland) [March 2004]
  2. Egypt [April 1993]
  3. Ghana (Gold Coast, British Togoland) [December 2002]
  4. Kenya [*January 2000]
  5. Morocco [February 2004]
  6. Namibia [March 2002]
  7. South Africa [March 2002]
  8. Uganda [January 2000]
  9. Western Sahara [*February 2004]
  10. Zambia (No. Rhodesia) [March 2004]
  11. Zimbabwe (So. Rhodesia) [March 2004]

Middle East

  1. Dubai [March 2000]
  2. Israel [April 1993]
  3. Palestine [April 1993]

Asia

  1. China, People's Rep. [December 1996]
  2. Hong Kong [March 2000]
  3. Japan [December 1996]
  4. Lesser Sunda Islands (Bali, Timor, Indonesia) [September 1998]
  5. Singapore [*September 1998]
  6. Taiwan. R.O.C. [*September 1998]

Antarctica

  1. Argentine South Pole [December 2003]
  2. Chilean South Pole [December 2003]
  3. Falkland Islands Dependencies (British Antarctica, Graham Land, So. Sheltland, So. Sandwich, So. Georgia, So. Orkney) [December 2003]

* Although it counts towards the Traveler's Century Club, I never got out of the airport, train, or car, and so it wasn't much of a visit.

My wife's and my upcoming travel plans:

  1. New Zealand [August 2004]
  2. Cook Islands (Rarotonga, Aitutaki, Penrhyn) [August 2004]
  3. French Polynesia (Tahiti, Tuamotu, Austral, Gambier) [August 2004]
  4. Australia [August 2004]
  5. Thailand [December 2004]
  6. Cambodia [December 2004]
  7. Vietnam [December 2004]
  8. Laos [December 2004]
  9. Korea, South [January 2004]
  10. Korea, North [*January 2004]

Here are some suggestions for exotic holidays. If you have any other supporting or contradictory thoughts about the places listed below, please let me know by email to dan@dankohn.com.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is probably the best destination spot in the hemisphere. It is accessible, friendly, and absolutely stunning, without being over touristed yet. I was able to organize a great combination of adventure and relaxation with the following stay:

  • You want to spend as little time in San Jose as possible because it is an ugly city, although all transport tends to connect through there. While there in the evening before jaunting off to the next destination, the Hotel Grano de Oro is an oasis of pleasant people and surroundings. Their Garden Suite is amazing.
  • I'd recommend rafting down the Rio Pacuare with Aventuras Naturales, which is supposed to be the best white water rafting in Latin America. The lodge is just as romantic as they describe it (in what is a great piece of travel advertisement writing).
  • Villas Caletas is an amazing isolated resort. There are few more beautiful places in the world to sit by the endless pool and enjoy the surroundings.
  • Finally don't miss the Aguila de Osa Inn by the Corcovado Rain Forest, which National Geographic described as "the most biologically intense place on earth". The rain forest hike was a highlight of the trip.

I contacted Aventuras Naurales via email and they were able to arrange all of the rest of the reservations, including the transfers, which often involved ten person planes operated like a bus system.

Bali

Moving now to the other side of the world, Bali is another unique, exciting, culturally-rich vacation spot. Don't worry about political troubles in the rest of Indonesia, as Bali is majority Hindu and therefore somewhat culturally isolated from the rest of the archipelago. When I was there in November 1998, the crash of the rupiah created essentially a 90% off sale on everything there. After two of the best scuba dives I've ever done, I got a two-hour massage under a thatched roof hut, while listening to the waves strike the shore. The massage cost $3.

  • Singapore Airlines had a special deal of round-trip tickets from LA, including five nights at Le Meridien Nirwana, transfers, and a tour, for $1,000. Needless to say, this was an unbeatable offer, and allowed me to make an exception to my big hotel rule. I'd recommend the hotel, and especially the (included) breakfasts, which were more impressive than any buffet I've ever seen. I wouldn't pay their list of $250 a night, though.
  • I highly recommend Taman Sari, for a great, out of the way resort. There's very good scuba diving just an easy boat ride away. Be sure not to miss diving or snorkeling at Manganjan Island.
  • If you want to experience video-game like excitement, rent a car in Bali. It's right-side of the (often) single lane roads driving, while avoiding enormous pot holes and Vespa scooters carrying families of four. Rules of the road in Bali are that the vehicle entering the road has right of way. Really. (Hiring a drivers is no more expensive, and much more convenient and safer, but not as exciting.)

Cinque Terre

This is one of the coolest destinations in Europe. I would definitely recommend Florence and Cinque Terre over Rome and any other city (like Venice). Here are some photos and a description. This walk between the towns, which follow the cliffs and pass through vineyards, is one of the best I've ever done.

I recommend staying in or near Portofino (it's an easy train ride away), and spending one day hiking from Monterrosso to Corniglia and the next from Corniglia to Riomaggiore. The direction doesn't matter, but dividing the tour into two days is the perfect way to enjoy the views without rushing or getting bored. And, at each city, you can get some of the best home-made pasta you've ever had (pesto was invented on this Ligurian coast), as well as fresh mussels served in lemon, butter, and garlic.

Uganda

I spent 10 days there at the end of January 2000, visiting my friend Mark Grabowsky.  Mark is working with the World Health Organization to eradicate measles and polio in East Africa.

We tracked the mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, which was much safer than when some Western tourists were killed there 6 months earlier (we'll be hoping to avoid any guerillas).  We also visited Murchinson Falls, where the Nile is compressed to a couple meters.