*In collaboration with ROL Cruise
With darkening nights and a winter chill on the horizon, 2019 is steadily drawing to a close and I’ve been reflecting, as ever, on what a great year it’s been for travel. The thirty under thirty challenge is under my belt (32 if we’re counting Scotland and Wales – do they or don’t they count? Someone tell me!) and I’ve been incredibly lucky to visit four new countries across the globe, plus return to Italy for a few days.
Earlier this year, I visited the Philippines which was my dream destination for so long that it feels weird to look back and remember setting foot in places of such otherworldly beauty. While I’d go back again in a heartbeat – with almost 3,000 islands, I’ve barely scratched the surface of everything the friendly nation has to offer – my attention has turned to which new places are on my radar in 2020.
Five new destinations is an ambitious list for just twelve months, particularly when my intentions were to start the house buying process, but as I’ve desperately been trying to whittle down that list from double digits, there’s almost certainly a lifetime more adventures to go before I’ll feel truly satiated.
I’m kicking off this list with the simplest destination on my 2020 bucket list and the only one I’m currently guaranteed to visit. After years of pining from too-expensive flights, I finally bit the bullet and booked a trip to one of Europe’s greenest tourist destinations.
So far our itinerary is wide open but my imagined plan is that we’ll spend a couple of days in the capital of Ljubliana and a couple in the countryside at Lake Bled and the surrounding national parks. Sadly, I’m not sure if the March chill will allow us to plunge into the lake for a swim as we were hoping but I’ve got faith that it’ll be just as beautiful as I’ve always imagined.
Out of all the places on this list, it’s the one I’m most excited about but I can already anticipate needing to go back for more – there’s no way four days will be enough for me.
For years, I only knew Albania as the place where Voldemort hid after his fall from power – anyone else with me? But about three years ago, I followed an Instagrammer who was travelling the Balkans and ever since I’ve been utterly obsessed with the idea of doing the same.
Behind the heading ‘Albania’ above lies my real desire to plan a summer road trip from Dubrovnik to Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania and Macedonia – see earlier where I mentioned the impossibility of trying to narrow my list down.
So why the Balkans? They’re slowly coming into the radar now that places like Croatia are well on the tourist map and in a few years time, I’ve got no doubt that the glorious-looking Albanian coastline will be just as popular with holidaymakers and city breakers alike. The combination of great summer weather (Southern Albania joins Greece!), clear waters the colour of Paul Hollywood’s eyes and vastly-less explored landscapes is intoxicating to me and if there’s a trip I’m going to prioritise this year, it’ll be this one.
When it comes to thinking of my next long haul destination my mind always wanders east. Now that I’ve been lucky enough to explore some of the destinations I lusted after most, my thoughts have been creeping towards Central and South America, a huge chunk of the planet that I know very little about.
With some of my close friends planning extended trips there in the next twelve months, I’m surprised that I’ve not yet decided to dig out my backpack, pause my career and take off again but right now, the urge to leave everything behind hasn’t gripped me. Instead, I’m hoping to save like crazy and manage a mere week or two getting the smallest taste of what this wild new continent has to offer.
As one of the world’s best eco-tourism destinations, Costa Rica is right up at the top of my list but I’d be lying if I pretended my head couldn’t be turned by cheeky Belize in second place. Hopefully the year will bring a lottery win to make choosing a non-issue – wouldn’t that be an absolute delight.
A couple of years ago, I’d have told you that Iceland was at the top of my travel bucket list but with more and more reports of overtourism damaging Iceland’s naturally awesome landscapes, my desire to visit has waned slightly in the last year or so. Not enough to knock it off the list entirely but I’m definitely open-minded to other options – how amazing does this Northern Lights cruise to Norway look?
As always, I’m struggling with the ‘so many places, so little time (and money) conundrum that’s certain to loom over my years on this beautiful planet. However, I’m in serious need of a more winter-friendly destination – I’m not sure how I’m planning to cram the first four into the summer months without the help of Benjamin’s Watch – and if I can find a good enough deal, I still think that Iceland has serious potential to make it onto my visited list for 2020. Snow and ice, I’m reluctantly ready for you.
I’m completely placing blame on ‘Race across the World’ for this one making it onto the list. The BBC show, where teams have to get from London to Singapore with no flights and just the cost of a plane ticket in their pockets, utterly gripped me and Uzbekistan was the place that stood out the most of all those I hadn’t yet seen.
From ornately decorated mosques to a rich history that I’m totally ignorant of, there’s something about the idea of going somewhere completely different that’s got me gripped this year – can you tell by the rest of this list? I don’t know much about any of the main attractions and yet if I could scrape together the pennies to join a group tour, there would be very little stopping me from heading over to find out. So far this part of the world has completely evaded me and I’m constantly curious to see what it’s all about.
What destinations are on your 2020 travel bucket list?
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