You may remember back in November, I participated in BootsnAll’s 30 Days of Indie Travel Challenge. I almost made it through the entire month, posting once a day based on the prompt for that day.
Well, BootsnAll has started a new project – the 2012 Indie Travel Challenge, which involves writing one post each week for the entire year based on the prompt for that week. I enjoyed the 30 Day Challenge so much that I just had to take on this one as well. My goal will be to publish my weekly post each Friday.
The prompt for Week 1 of the Challenge is:
Share with us your 2012 indie travel list. Part resolutions list, part bucket list, the list should help you focus your travel plans so you can take concrete steps to achieve your travel goals.
Since I am just over four months into a very carefully planned year of travel, I have kind of already done this. Back at the beginning of my Soviet Sojourn, I wrote about my overall tentative itinerary for the trip, as well as a bucket list of things I don’t want to miss. Although I didn’t write about it, I also mentally divided the trip into five phases, with Phase 1 being Finland, Estonia and Russia and Phase 2 being my December swing through the Baltics and Poland.
For this week’s task, I’m taking a closer look at what I have coming up for the last three phases.
Phase 3: Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova
Phase 3 began Tuesday when I arrived in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. After five days here, I will spend two days in Grodno and three days in Brest.
On January 13, I will board an overnight train to Kiev, Ukraine. I start Russian language classes in Kiev the following Monday and will stay there at least two weeks, possibly more depending on how I like the city and how the classes go. Regardless, I plan to spend the rest of January and most of February somewhere in Ukraine. I also received some exciting news recently that tours to Chernobyl have resumed so that is on my calendar for late January (I am keeping my fingers crossed that actually works out).
I am tentatively planning to spend the last week of February in Moldova before heading to Odessa to catch a ferry across the Black Sea to Poti, Georgia. While in Moldova, I plan to visit the non-country of Transdniestr – a trip that is technically a Christmas present from my brother and sister-in-law.
Phase 4: The Caucasus
Once in Georgia, I will work my way quickly overland to Yerevan, Armenia. My goal is to arrive no later than March 10 to begin a month of volunteering with the Armenian Volunteer Corp. After my volunteer stint ends in Armenia in mid-April, I plan to head back to Georgia to see more of the mountainous country in the springtime before moving on to Azerbaijan. There, I hope to explore some of their recently developed community based tourism efforts that include a variety of homestays in villages throughout the country.
Phase 5: Central Asia
From Azerbaijan, I will start the last phase of this trip – the ‘Stans! I have gone back and forth about my exact route (and it remains subject to change), but as of right now I am planning to fly from Baku to Astana, Kazakhstan. Yes, I know that means scrapping the Black Sea ferry from Baku to Turkmenbashi but for a variety of reasons, starting in Kazakhstan just seems to make more sense.
From Astana, I will go by train to Almaty and then work my way through Shymkent and Turkestan, up to the Aral Sea and then on to Aktau, where I want to check off another “must-do” item of visiting the underground mosques in the region.
From Aktau, I will move on to Uzbekistan, stopping in Khiva before taking a detour into Turkmenistan for ten days. There, hiking in the Yangykala Canyon, a homestay in Nokhur and visiting the Darvaza Gas Crater are all on the list.
Back in Uzbekistan, I plan to hit Bukhara, Samarkand and Tashkent. Next up will be Tajikistan where I am considering a potential volunteer opportunity that would involve working with a community-based tourism organization.
Finally, I plan to travel from Tajikistan via the Pamir Highway into Kyrgyzstan. I am looking forward to a lot of hiking in the mountains in Kyrgyzstan, as well as another possible volunteer experience.
Of course, this is all subject to change – per my New Year’s resolutions, I am going to try to stay flexible, spontaneous and open to any other opportunities that may come my way!