My 2024 Travel Plans
Time to make 2024 travel plans! Looking back at my 2023 Travel Plans, I am pleasantly surprised how many of them I turned into actual trips. My end of year post if full of pictures and good memories, and as is tradition with many in the period between Christmas and the Gregorian Calendar New Year, let’s make some plans for the New Year. I did some extra work shifts on New Years Eve – someone has got to do it – so in a couple months, some unplanned funds will arrive, which may contribute to a nice travel year ahead.
You see, the working less didn’t quite work out. Which is good in hindsight as it allows me to make relatively ambitious travel plans for the New Year…
Here’s what I have planned already. Unusually for me, I have booked flights and accommodation for all three trips, taking advantage of special offer on flight fares. I also have a never-ending list of tentative dream trips, but with no definite plans or bookings, they remain in the dream trip folder.
Table of Contents
Realistic 2024 travel plans
Here is what I have already planned. Among them are two new countries, keeping with my intention to visit one new country every year. I did not manage to do that in 2022, but visited two new countries in 2023.
Hospital Work in Pokhara, Nepal
Of all my 2024 travel plans, lets talk about the most significant first. After volunteering for an NGO, I knew I wanted to continue doing pro bono work. So, I have made fairly specific plans to work in an affordable care hospital in Pokhara, Nepal, for two or three weeks in May! I am not yet sure whether I will be on my own or whether my travel-reluctant husband will join me, so I may or may not have a few weekend side trips! Other than that, I am just happy to enjoy the mountain air, cycle a bit and admire the Himalayas from the lakeshore. Nepal will be a country new to me.
And that’s all I am going to say about that, as I haven’t even booked a flight or read a guide book about Nepal. I roughly know how I will be getting there and booked some accommodation.
Outer Hebrides Touring and Walking, Scotland
I returned from my recent trip to Edinburgh with a newly kindled love of Scotland. To be fair, I always loved Scotland, and had quite a few trips when I lived in Northern England. However, my big dream, visiting the Outer Hebrides, has remained a dream due to budget constraints. Edinburgh is fairly accessible from where we live in Eastern Germany, thanks to budget airlines, so I booked direct flights to Edinburgh and am looking into the practicalities of a week in Lewis and Harris.
Fact is that accommodation costs are really high in the United Kingdom when compared with other European destinations, also given the Outer Hebrides remote location. I’ve bitten the bullet and am going to book some classic Bed and Breakfast accommodation – there are plenty that look good.
Second big ticket item was getting to the Outer Hebrides from Edinburgh, then car hire to get around. As I learned years ago on Islay, the ferries have a more frequent schedule than the buses!
We were going to fly from Edinburgh, but just in the week I started looking, Loganair increased their fares, so we would be paying around 600 Euro for the short return flight to Stornoway, whereas car hire from Edinburgh Airport is less than 200Euro, two ferries amount to about 120 Euro. Plus fuel for about 400 miles. Also, we can stop at scenic places on the way if we wish.
Dive and Drive, Oman
Some trip in my 2024 travel plans that’s been partially booked for quite long is a trip to Oman. I have wanted to visit for quite some time, and Oman makes a perfect January winter sun destination. I have a flight booked and a tentative place on a Rescue Diver course near Muscat, and all my accommodation reserved, and I am leaving in less than a month. Normally I am mindful about cost so soon after the festive period, but I found some fairly cheap flights a few months ago. Mid-range hotels in Muscat don’t cost a lot – even with a pool, they are still pretty affordable compared to Central Europe.
Diving is a different matter – some people I asked described it as a bit meh. And it isn’t cheap, either. I thought I had my reservation for the course all sorted out, but didn’t hear back yet so I looked at some other rescue diver options with NAUI and SSI (different diving school associations) so we will see – with plenty of dive schools in the Greater Muscat area and a hire car, I am not worried.
Then I have another four days for general Muscat sightseeing, shopping, and a day in Nizwa via Jabal Shams. Is it enough time for Oman: Probably not, especially with the diving factored in.
Come March, and I booked a couple of weeks off. Since we are only going to Scotland for ten days, and I have a few more days off, I was thinking of a little fun trip – sunny, if possible. A bit short and expensive to go to Japan, Turkey was quite expensive – but I noticed flights to Kutaisi in Georgia for well under 100 Euro.
When I think of Georgia, some of the best food, nice wine and interesting architecture come to mind.
Last time I visited, in 2018, prices were relatively low and Georgia was a really lovely budget destination with nice varied landscapes, a welcoming attitude and lots of historical sights.
I have wanted to return for a while, especially to places I didn’t visit last time – Borjomi, Gelati, Tskaltubo, maybe Svaneti Region. I would not have much time, but there are destinations in Georgia where time won’t be on my side. Having been fascinated by the old Chiatura cable cars, they are now gone, and replaced in part by modern ones, and the abandoned resorts and sanatoria of Tskaltubo have been sold and re-sold many times, with some decaying to ruins and a few being restored – so it is time to go to Tskaltubo.
Really quickly, I made a small itinerary to visit Tskaltubo with side trips to Kutaisi and Gelati. Tskaltubo has been on my radar for years because of the decaying Soviet-era sanatoria which have been sold and re-sold over the past year, with just a couple being restored, so now is the time to go before it is too late and they might be demolished.
Also, Tskaltubo is a bona fide health resort with radon baths and treatment prices we can only dream of here in Central Europe. Let’s see if a few days in the hot water help my joints so much I will be walking tirelessly in Scotland!
After these trips, especially with an extended period of working as a volunteer, my bank account will probably be relatively depleted. But if it isn’t…
Trips that may well happen
There are always destinations that warrant another visit. Interestingly, when I write these down, they are all countries I have visited before.
A short Japan or Taiwan trip
Japan and Taiwan were two of the big highlights of my travels in 2023. I would love to return sooner rather than later – in fact, I almost bought a flight to Tokyo back in November, when all of a sudden, I had two weeks off due to my early return from Bangladesh. At the last minute, we had a family health emergency which took all my time, so I am glad I didn’t. The wish to return to Japan or Taiwan is still there, and I then made another attempt but didn’t quite trust Air China and the long-ish flight with multiple stops.
Then my husband expressed his desire to visit Scotland together, so that was that. Edinburgh and not Tokyo it is. Any time I get off that’s outside high summer, paired with a good and reasonably priced flight, I think I will be off. Especially Tokyo where I haven’t been for over ten years, maybe Nagano and Gifu prefectures, maybe part of Shikoku Island, and did I say I really fell in love with Kyushu when I studied in Nagasaki?
Back to Bangladesh
At this point I am running out of leave days so unless I do some extra work or quit my job, there is little chance any of these may happen. While I am not exactly 9 to 5, I do have a full-time job and there are only so many days I can take off.
The photo sums up the culture shock I felt in my first days in Dhaka, even though we were in the suburbs… eventually ventured in to Old Dhaka one early Friday morning for a bit of sightseeing on foot. Once I had figured out that people are generally friendly and welcoming, I happily joined what I perceived as utter chaos. As long as I always planned more time and put my seat bealt on, I would probably be fine.
While Bangladesh and especially Dhaka aren’t your mainstream tourist destinations, I had a great time on Bangladesh, at work and off work. We saw a good chunk of Dhaka, which is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. There’s a huge discrepancy between prices in services aimed at tourists, and local prices. I once remember a pretty tasty lunch for four, costing us 1.50 Euro. A meal for three in the district of Banani, easily 50 Euro or more.
On what turned out to be my final weekend there, we went on a private tour of the Barisal backwaters. From the overnight ship ride to our tour of the rivers and canals, this is one of my favourite trips of the year.
My working trip to Bangladesh was cut short due to political unrest and I have made an application to work in Bangladesh again, but right now, there are many uncertainties.
The NGO that sent me may finish cooperating with the Bangladeshi NGO that actually ran the Dhaka project, while the other project received less favourable reviews from someone who’s worked there. Still, I feel my job isn’t quite done there so I remain hopeful and try to collect leave days or ask for unpaid leave in order to return.
More Diving, probably Southern Egypt
When I put my diving suit on next time, it will be one year since my last dive. Too long to stay in the loop. I tried my best to do a dive here at home in summer but it pretty much equals bog snorkeling and is quote costly. So, I didn’t bother. Southern Egypt is said to have some of the best dive sites accessible to us Central Europeans, but the more south you go, the more expensive it gets! While Hurghada is all very accessible and mass market, Wadi Lahami near Berenike looks downright exclusive, and then there’s the liveaboards, too. I think I would settle on Marsa Alam, with its decent flight connections, nice -looking resort and decent dive sites either from the shore or a short boat ride.
Dream On, Maybe one day
Which… doesn’t leave me with much on the big dream trip list! I mean, yes, a six-week Thailand “do nothing” beach holiday would be nice, but… I tend to miss home after three weeks, I am pathetic like that.
Small Ship cruise
I am a sucker for old ships and sailing. Luckily, when I decided to go on the Norwegian Coast Post sip on a whim in 1991, the stars aligned and we spent 11 days on the 1950’s MS Nordstjernen which, now refurbished, is still part of the Hurtigruten fleet but does Svalbard Cruises exclusively. This was a great ship then, and now, 30 years later, is a proper museum piece. My mum says she’s been to Svalbard and there “isn’t much to see” but the cruises are relatively affordable. Also on the retro cool MS Deutschland, which takes 550 passengers maximum and even does Atlantic crossings via Greenland… whereas the other ones I have been thinking about, the classic Sea Cloud sailing yacht, are likely to remain a dream.
Maybe in a year or two.
Learning New Things
There are a lot of things that I wish I could learn while staying somewhere nice, not having to go to work and eating good food while I am learning. My Tropical Medicine Diploma was the academic version of that, this year. Now I have fine vegetarian cooking, perfume making and mosaic art on my list. There probably won’t be time for any of that in 2024, but it just gets rolled over into the next year…
On the professional side, I will study for my rescue diver certification and maybe do another professional course for examining potential divers. Problem is, the course is super expensive, the venues aren’t great destinations in themselves and I will probably have very little use for it in my main job. It’s definitely on my list but with regards to diving, I learned a lot more doing the actual diving. Divemaster is a far ahead dream, need to find time to dive more first!
Final Thoughts and Small Print
This post appears a bit half-baked, just like some of my travel plans! This year I am even unusually organised… but moving on to some actual travel blog post, I am just going to leave this as it is. There are no affiliate links, no advertising. All travel will be paid by myself, as usual. My job is how I fund my travels.