The longer I’ve been home after my 13 month journey through the former Soviet Union, the more I’ve been thinking about the places I want to go back to. As I ponder my future travel destinations, I am torn between discovering new places or returning to some of those that I am dying to explore more. And with limited vacation time for the foreseeable future, it will be tough to decide which way to go. Not to mention that, with most of these places, I would really love to return for more than a week or two – a month or two would be my preference. But let me dream for now…
While I didn’t appreciate it so much at the time, my month in Tajikistan really was a wonderful escape. With no television or internet access, I spent much of my free time reading, writing and hiking in the mountains around my homestays in the Fann Mountains. I adored my host family in Shing and I would love to return to see how they are doing – especially the younger girls like Mohpisand and Farhunda with whom I spent a lot of time. They were so smart and enthusiastic and I would love to teach them more.
I am also dying to explore the Pamir region in Tajikistan. When I visited the first time, I could only get a 30-day visa, so I had to move on as soon as my volunteer stint ended. While I thought of returning after I passed through Kyrgyzstan, I ran out of the time and money to do so (and as it turns out the Pamirs were closed to foreigners for a time, so I wouldn’t have been able to go anyway).
Okay, so I have already been to Armenia twice, returning for a week after my initial time volunteering there. But, there were some things I missed. It was too windy to ride the cable car to Tatev Monastery when I was there and my camera died while we were visiting Echmiadzin. I felt rushed visiting sites like Khor Virap and Garni Temple because I went with a tour group, not on my own. And I would love to see Lake Sevan in the summer. I also skipped Nagorno-Karabakh (known to Armenians as Artsakh) when I visited because if I went, I would be prohibited from entering Azerbaijan. Now that I have been to Azerbaijan and have little interest in returning, I would love to go to Artsakh and, specifically, hike the Janapar Trail – a 100 kilometer hiking path through the region. And while I haven’t really made this public knowledge yet, I would really love to write a guidebook about Armenia.
Yes, my three months in Russia were incredibly up and down, but the longer I have been away, the more I want to return. I would love to visit St. Petersburg for the White Nights Festival and while I have little desire to return to Moscow, I do want to explore the Golden Ring some more – my day trips to Suzdal and Sergiev Posad were rushed and I never even made it to Vladimir or Yaroslavl or some of the smaller towns last time. I also really want to explore more of eastern Russia, such as the Tuva region and the Kamchatka Peninsula. I just didn’t have the time or the money to include those my first time around. And of course if I could go to Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics, I would be in heaven (I actually applied to volunteer during the Olympics but while I haven’t been officially rejected, I have given up hope that I’ll be selected).
Ok, yes, I have been to Georgia a whopping five times already. But those five trips added up to less than a month total in the country and I just really, really like it there. The food, the people, the sites – all are amazing. If I was going to move anywhere overseas, Tbilisi would probably be my top choice. Beyond that, I would love to return to do some longer hikes in Svaneti, make a trip up to Abkhazia (which I never even considered previously, but now have a friend who did it and it intrigues me) and maybe even run the Kazbegi Marathon.
It snowed the first nine days I was in Ukraine. That was followed by a deep freeze – the coldest cold spell the country had seen in decades. So even though I enjoyed the six weeks I spent there, I would love to go back in the spring, summer or fall – pretty much any time other than winter! I would spend some more time in Kiev and Lviv, check out more of the small towns throughout western Ukraine and, above all, go hiking in the Carpathians.
I never really planned to explore much of Poland on my trip since I was focusing on the former Soviet Union. But, it worked out that I spent about ten days in Warsaw over the holidays and that brief taste was enough to leave me dreaming of a return trip. I actually read up quite a bit on Poland before my trip because at one point I thought I would include it, so I know a few places really stand out to me: Krakow, Gdansk, Sopot, Wroclaw and the lakes region.
This was another detour from my original plan and the three weeks I spent there left me wanting so much more! My week in Istanbul did not feel like nearly enough and beyond that, I only saw a fraction of the country: Amasya, Trabzon, Erzurum and Kars. I could easily go back and spend another three months there, seeing more of Istanbul and exploring places like Izmir, Canakkle, Kusadasi, Cappadocia, Antalya, Lake Van and even hiking the Lycian Way.
What places have you visited that you would love to return to?