My 2023 Travel Plans: Inspiring, Ambitious or Pie in the Sky?
Hot on the heels of my 2022 travel year comes the 2023 travel plans, or intentions, as the hip ones like to say now. If my speed of writing this blog is anything to go by, I might have finished it in a week or so… if nothing else comes along.
Table of Contents
Prequel to the 2023 travel plans: Work less, live more?
One of my aim s since, ca.2002 has been to work a bit less. I am afraid with these rather ambitious 2023 travel plans, I am over egging the pudding a bit. However, I have managed at least in a way that I have come off from rigid rotas to a bit more flexible schedule, combining my clinics with some freelance work.
A small part of my work is now location independent, which ist a great win for someone who’s been stuck in schedules directed by others. Secondly, I have branched out into travel medicine and auditing, while sticking to my core job (which cannot really be made location independent). So, while I still do the hours, I feel a lot more in control, which is great, and I managed to even do some academic work which I thought I may have to give up with a more unconventional schedule.
So here comes the “little Sabbatical”
And then, having tiptoed around the issue for a while, I decided to go back to university part time. My initial idea was to enroll at the local university and study theology, but I didn’t like the time commitment and schedule, and honestly, I have no intention of becoming a pastor. So I thought, well, let’s do a shorter course. I work for a corporate employer, which is not terribly modern when it comes to staff sabbaticals. And in German employment law, there is no right to this.
Coupled with the rule of thumb calculation how long I could realistically be away and how much overtime I had accumulated, I pushed for six weeks and got them. It’s just a shame that the university only gave me a waiting list place, stating “too many applications…” in their cookie cutter rejection email.
Have rejection, will travel
I learned to see this as a blessing in disguise, as it leaves me free to do anything I have always wanted for a long time. I have my 2023 travel plans and made a few enquiries. Just as I was at a hairs breadth of booking a flight to Ladakh, this new omicron variant is starting to cause trouble and seeing how India locked down, I am all of a sudden less convinced of booking a non-refundable flight.
At the same time, to university in Japan has made some gently positive noise. So, nothing is certain. And since I am on the topic of Japan, I have become very interested in doing part of the Shikoku 88 Temple pilgrimage on foot or bike. Or trekking in the Himalayas then Yoga or an Ayurvedic Healing course, before I become too scared of altitude sickness and rocky footpaths…? Decisions I feel unable to make right now.
And in the meantime, I might have some other ideas, depending on what documentary I come across, or what book I read.
Seasonal Sun Trip
Whenever possible I try to take a short trip after the holidays in order to get a bit of fresh air and sunshine. I call it my Seasonal Affective Disorder trip. So, I must include one in my 2023 travel plans as it drizzles down here and gets dark in the early afternoon.
Thankfully, I don’t suffer too much but I do tend to take it easy in January. Okay, last year that was Turkey with not much sunshine and rather a lot of snow, but this time, for the first time in three years, I will go to Jordan again. I just saw the cheap flight one day and booked it. It’s a direct flight, which will be great after all the hoo ha with cancellations lately. I booked myself a studio apartment in lovely Aqaba, and there is a Diving Centre next door. So I plan to build on the Open Water Diver, dive a bit and check out how good medical care is in case of an emergency – in theory only, I hope!
Then, if the weather is okay, I will travel to Wadi Rum again and spend a night or two in a desert camp. I still need to make arrangements, being a bit concerned as a solo woman, and I don;t want all the attention of a private tour. Having done the day tour before, I am more interested in a bit of light hiking, maybe a little 4×4 trip. Or I re-visit Petra. So many options, and I don’t have to decide right now.
Checking in on London
After a long pandemic-related break, I am so happy to return to London for little breaks. I mean, how could London not be in my 2023 travel plans? I lived there in 2001 and 2002 as a student and I always love to come back, although I no longer want to live there.
It used to be easy, but since a number of airlines withdrew form our not-so-great airport, it has become a bit trickier, usually requiring at least two overnight stays and a couple of days holiday. Usually, I will have to deal with some work-related or Brexit stuff before the good times can begin, but I try to keep the former brief and the latter extensive.
I have also expanded my horizon a lot since Crossrail AKA Elizabeth Line started running, since you can now stay in the absolute outskirts (but make sure you are not leaving Zone 6) but still be in Central London in, like 20minutes. Of course, accommodations have twigged onto that, but there are still many reasonable places to stay a bit further out. As much as I love the centre, I have also taken a liking to Suburbia, from my beloved Ealing to Richmond, Southall, Golders Green as far as West Drayton.
Spring Break: Silk Road but not as you know it
After our Uzbekistan Silk Road trip busted up so quickly last year, I was kinda done with travelling with my mum for a bit. However…. a big birthday came up, and there is only so much anti aging cream she needs, so I thought I give her a trip to one of the origins of the silk road – on the European side, that is. Just across the Alps, I am taking her to Venice. So, 2023 travel plans will also include travelling with a parent – which I find rather stressful, to be honest. But then, my mom is the group and package tourist, so I want to plant some different ideas into her brain…
After two flight cancellations and counting, that trip has now blown up into nearly a week, but I really don’t mind. I love Venice, and if my mum gets tired of walking or me visiting churches, I can drop her in one of the very scenic bars. Booking about nine months ahead, I got a nice deal on a modern four-star hotel in the centre with a bit of cheapo pension/hostel tacked to the beginning and end. Yes, Venice can be aexpensive, but it doesn’t have to be. I am looking forward to add to my Venice bar and restaurant guide, too.
The “Big Holiday”
My husband is a very conservative traveller who prefers to stick to the Schengen+EU zone, and anything Eastern European is a little suspect to him. I almost dragged him by the hair to Georgia and Armenia, and he loved it. This year? No idea. We tend to rotate between Spain, Italy and Greece, and if order were anything to go by, it would be Spain, but I might just be able to convince him that Thailand or Oman might be a good idea. Which is a lot more expensive than the EU given the flights, and the fact that we err on the budget side of things in Europe, staying in small family guesthouses or hotels.
I love Thailand but haven’t been for ten years. My last trip was pretty much cross-country, with Sukhothai the most “touristy” place. It was not so crowded, and I liked Phitsanulok for the small town charm and the very large historic Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat, Khon Kaen, and the sleepy but impressive Angkor-era temples of Phanom Rung and Phimai, easily accessible on a day trip from Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat).
Oman holds a fascination for its history and traditionalism and now, also for diving. Since it appears a very safe country to travel in, I can maybe get him interested. If 2023 travel plans could include Oman, I would be very happy. It would be the only new country I would travel to this year. And if not… plenty of islands and coastal areas of Italy that offer sun, sea and a bit of diving, too.
So, you see there are a number of rather nice trips in my 2023 travel plans. All while working full time with a few side jobs. And the good news is while I still need to take a holiday from the main job, two of the jobs I can work while traveling. Big improvement to working in hospital rotas for years.
No longer Counting Countries
I am not a big country counter, but since about 2017 I have tried to visit a new country every year. Some years I managed one, some years five. I even flew to Riga for a weekend last December because the new country quota was unfulfilled. In 2022, I only travelled to countries I had been before – but plenty new destinations. So, as part of my 2023 travel plans I have decided to give up on the new country a year. I don’t want to make overpriced trips to San Marino or Liechtenstein just for the sake of having been there. There’s a lot of comfort in visiting places one has been before, and do I care to spend close to a week in Aqaba? Nope. If I fancy it, I will go elsewhere for a night or two, but I may as well stay put.
And as you can see from the pictures, most countries I plan to visit this year I have visited before. I mean, India is really large, for example, and if I am really going to the Himalayas, this will be a totally new region for me.
Hand Luggage only?
I have been a friend of the travelling light for years. I think the last time I checked anything was when I brought back a bunch of cosmetics and several bottles of fine organic wine from France. Before that? Oh, shopping spree in Turkey, spices, Henna, coffee, towels, fabric… that still happens. Flying out, it’s always hand luggage. Part of my 2023 travel plans is also to cut down on unnecessary items to lug around.
Now many budget airlines and so-called full service airlines have restricted their hand luggage allowances even more, allowing only a “personal item” (measuring 40 x 20 x 25 cm on Ryanair or 45 x 36 x 20 cm on Easyjet, for example) in their basic fare. Fine, challenge accepted! Our last trip was about 14 days long and we managed to carry 30l backpacks only. Okay, we did not have enough glad rags for all the fancy dinners, but having had access to a washing machine for the first week, it was just fine.
Diving trip with a”personal item” small bag
My next trip to Jordan, I will try the 30litre backpack minimal packing too, although I have to take a bit of diving gear along. My plan? Well. I wear the heaviest stuff, of course, take a pretty unfashionable Goretex jacket that’s good in almost any kind of weather (rain, desert winds, sandstorn, no problem), a long sleeved merino sweater and a merino T shirt, a dress, and a spare pair of sandals. I multi-task my toiletries, cut my soaps in small pieces, use dental tablets, with deodorant and moisturizer the only larger items.
As for diving gear, I take my own boots (just feels more hygienic), a mask and a foldable snorkel, which pack fairly neatly. I hire the rest of the gear. I did some test packing and was happy. The 30l pack has flown on Ryanair and Easyjet before so I expect there will be no issues taking it on Easyjet
Usually the heaviest stuff is my camera gear, but I learned to scale down. Now I usually just take my ageing SLR and the best lens I have, a fixed focal length, or maybe a zoom. I am kinda saving fior a new camera, but am stuck in the 2000’s with my photo editing skills, and I am not sure I want to bump a new camera around sand, sea and freezing mountains.