While in South Africa, Tim and I had a problem we've never encountered before. (And by problem, I mean "something of absolutely no consequence whatsoever.") When people we met asked where in the world we would be traveling to next, we didn't have an answer for them. Given we're usually a bit guilty of thinking three or four trips in advance, it was remarkably refreshing to have a blank slate for a while.
Aside from the usual holiday trips to see family, we don't have any travel plans for the rest of this year. (That's mostly because we used up all our remaining vacation days on our South Africa trip!) But as far as 2011 is concerned, well, it's just ready and waiting for us to explore.
Of course we have no way of knowing how the year will actually shape up. But, assuming the coming year is a pretty normal one (knock on wood), we'd expect to leave the US for international destinations somewhere around 3-6 times next year. And our personal goal is that among those 3-6 trips, at least one place should be a new country to us.
(This past year, we hit three new countries: Nicaragua, Germany, and South Africa. And we left the country five times: Montreal, Canada in February; Bay of Fundy, Canada in April; Nicaragua in May; Quebec, Canada in August; and Germany and South Africa in October through November. Though, as I mention in the Bay of Fundy story, I'm still not sure Canada counts!)
So where in the world shall we go in 2011?
Even though we don't know where our very next trip will be yet, we do know one place where we'd like to go at the end of next year: New Zealand. We've been eager to explore that gorgeous country for quite some time now, but we've been waiting until our best friend returned home so we could explore it with him. A kiwi himself, he's been living in the States now for 10 or so years, but come January he and his lovely girlfriend will be heading back to the land of hobbits. And we, graciously wonderful people we are, are going to take full advantage of them living there as a way to explore the country and, ahem, score free accommodation. We'll be excited to see them too, of course! (See "graciously wonderful" description earlier.) And it'll be incredibly special to see such a beautiful country with two of our most favorite people in the world.
Now, New Zealand will be later in the year, giving time to our friends to get settled (and giving us time to save for the astronomically-priced plane tickets). But what about earlier in 2011?
One idea that came to mind during our recent layover in Frankfurt (specifically at 8am with beers in hand touring Frankfurt's streets with our good friends Klaus and Secret Agent X) was a two-week long road trip through Europe. We'd leave Dusseldorf in Klaus's convertible and easily be able to hit several (new, to us) countries while enjoying time with wonderful friends and seeing some fabulous sights. Plus, we could wear sunglasses. What more could we want out of life?
Then there are always those last minute traveling opportunities that pop up throughout the year. (Like when we took a long weekend in 2009 to join Klaus in Bogota, Colombia.) They're sometimes my most favorite parts of traveling because you have no idea when you'll be hopping on a plane for somewhere else in the world next week. Maybe we'll pop down to somewhere new in Central America for a few days. Or maybe we'll finally return to England to visit some more dear friends. Or maybe we'll head back to Buenos Aires to catch a tango show one Friday night.
As for other possible larger trips next year, I'll confess that Africa is already calling to us strongly. We've only been home from South Africa for a few weeks, but we both desperately want to return. A trip from Cape Town and up through Namibia has crossed our minds quite a bit. And for the past few months we've started thinking a lot about West Africa. And don't even get us started on returning to places from our past – like India, where we have so much more to see (I'm especially drawn to the Golden Temple in the state of Punjab), or the ele park, which we haven't had a chance to return to since adopting Belly.
Given earlier this year we had no way of knowing we'd be traveling to South Africa (and Germany) for three weeks, 2011 is definitely still wide open. The days are just waiting to be filled with new places to visit and old places to reconnect, new friendships to create and dear friendships to treasure. I can't wait to see what the next year will bring and where in the world the road will take us. For me, not knowing where we'll be going is a wonderful "problem" to have.
(And you? Where in the world will you be headed in 2011?)