A while back I put together a list of trips I’d like to complete here in the great-big U.S. of A; a list that highlighted a few of the most All-American and unique things our country has to offer, including amusement parks, rodeos, nascar, and college football. In the time since compiling our future stateside journeys, my mind has been a-wandering towards adventures abroad.
Even though our two-and-a-half year RTW trip helped whittle away at my former list of “things to do before I die” – touch Hadrian’s Wall, travel to another country by boat, see the Terracotta Army – there are still so many places left unexplored beyond our borders. Here, in no particular order, I present a few thoughts on future travels we’ve set our sights on:
The Holi Festival in India – We’ve been talking about checking out this Hindu “festival of colors” that marks the end of winter and the coming of spring’s harvest for quite a while now. Pictures I’ve seen make is look like a colorful mess of fun, where people aren’t at all afraid to get really wet and dirty for the sake of a good party (anyone who dares attend a Holi Festival will be showered with fistfuls of colored powders and pastes, and probably buckets of dyed water too). For a girl who was famous in kindergarten for cleanly painting within the lines with only her index finger while the other kids made a mess of the walls and furniture during finger painting, attending this festival would definitely exist light years out of my comfort bubble.
Still, I could buck-up and get over being a little dirty if it weren’t for a few troubling facts that surfaced when I sat down to research this trip. Primarily, the paint that is so generously showered over all turns out to be seriously toxic. I guess during the olden days they got their pigment from natural sources, but something about a population over 1.2 billion tends to deplete natural resources. The alternative synthetic dyes that are used nowadays are a recipe of toxic chemicals (such as lead oxide and asbestos) that can create a host of nasty side effects. The wikipedia page listed “temporary blindness” as one. No thank you. Just kidding. Moving on.
Italian Road Trip – While in Scotland we finally wised up and hired a rental car to explore the country on our own without being at the mercy of the public transit system. It ended up being way cheaper than bus tickets, plus we were able to zig-zag our way across every inch of the tiny nation, visiting little villages, parks, and lochs along the way. Now that I got a taste of that sort of do-it-yourself travel, Italy’s the next spot for an international road trip. With the freedom of a car we could check out territory left unexplored my most, eating ourselves plump and drinking ourselves silly along the way. I’m particularly excited for the Puglia region, where I intend to leave no culinary stone unturned.
El Camino de Santiago – To compensate for the overindulgence of our Italian road trip, the next Euro stop will be a little stroll through Spain. Starting at the Pyrenees (as far as the Spanish are concerned, the French have different ideas on the subject), The Way of St. James is a common pilgrimage route that crosses northern Spain and ultimately leads to the cathedral of Santiago. The Camino Frances – the specific route we would like to walk – is roughly 480 miles through the Spanish countryside from start to finish. The fabulous regional food and wine are another incentive to spend 6 weeks walking from village to village.
Chile’s San Alfonso del Mar Resort – Why, you ask, would I name a pompous, over-priced, private resort as a major world attraction worthy of my visit? For the world’s largest and deepest outdoor swimming pool of course! At 115 feet deep, it takes 66 million gallons of water sucked directly from the adjacent Pacific Ocean to fill the 20-acre man-made lagoon. Apparently an outfit in Egypt is constructing a pool to rival this one, but since it’s not completed yet San Alfonso’s pool hold the current records.
As wicked awesome as this sounds, it too had a few pitfalls when I sat down to investigate the facts. First, the Pacific Ocean is cold. Meaning, the pool is cold. Second, the guests aren’t allowed to swim in the pool. You can rent boats and kayaks and such, but no swimming. Third, the resort is broken up into condos, each having different owners and completely different levels of quality control. The cleanliness of your room is not guaranteed, guest services is a notion to throw out the window, and if you want something so frivolous as sheets and towels you must agree to an extra fee. Boo. And it sounded so cool!
Palio di Siena – One of the world’s smallest horse races happens twice a year in Siena, Italy’s famous Piazza del Campo. Ancient rivalries and rituals dominate this 700-year old event, with 10 horses and their jockey’s representing a specific city ward for three tremendously dangerous laps around the jam-packed piazza. It’s the animal that wins the 90 second race, not the jockey, meaning that whichever horse crosses the finish line first is crowned winner whether or not the jockey is on it, or even still alive (did I mention it’s dangerous?). The official loser is the horse that comes in second. In pure Italian fashion the rivalries have a tendency to get rather heated, with frequent allegations of bribery and doping. Oh, and death. Because it’s freaking dangerous.
The Naadam – On the complete opposite side of the globe is another, entirely different horserace of interest. The Mongolian festival Naadam which features the “three games of men” (wrestling, horse racing, and archery) are held during the midsummer holidays throughout the country and feature up to 1000 horses of varying ages. In contrast to Siena’s itty-bitty race around a city square, the Mongolian horserace tends to be more about distances – very long distances – and can span anywhere from 15 to 30 kilometers based on the age of the horse. As always, the lighter the jockeys the better the odds, which is why in Mongolia children between the ages of 5 (yes, FIVE) and 13 are selected for the position.
Celebrate the Swedish Midsummer – Living in a part of the world where darkness reigns would suck, which is why in Sweden the locals take Summer Solstice seriously. Knocking off two birds with one stone, partaking a Swedish midsummer festival for a midnight ski sesh would satisfy our wish to celebrate the sun with people who don’t take it for granted, as well as Allen’s dream of snowboarding on every continent. Which, coincidentally, is a list all of it’s own.