Fifty before I’m 50

Armchair inspiration?

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Travel companies: please, no more!

Aside from the apocalyptic abyss that the entire world has sunk in to in an effort to stem the tide of thousands of people getting sick every day, the facts are quite simple: I don’t have the cash or confidence to part with right now.

The Covid-19 situation is clearly affecting us all in different ways.  But I think it’s reasonable to say that most of us are feeling pretty scared.  Scared for our own health, scared for that of our loved ones, scared for our livelihoods and our homes, scared for our freedom, scared for the increasing lack of resources and, quite frankly, scared for our sanity.  

Indeed, only this morning the Long Lady who has travelled all the way round the world by herself, was actually reduced to a fit of shakes and a flood of tears in a high-street shop trying to buy three onions, a pint of milk and a box of cat food.

It’s a terrifying time for all of us and each day brings more bad news and an ever-increasing sense of dread.  And this isn’t going away any time soon.  Thousands of people are going to die in this country in the coming weeks.  That’s a fact.

Staying indoors is something I’m actually very good at, weirdly, for a traveller.  It’s often the case that I lock my door on a Friday evening and don’t unlock it again until Monday morning.  Some weekends I might do a little this or that but when I’m not travelling I live, to all intents and purposes, a pretty quiet life.  So this staying indoors should be a cinch for me, right?

Wrong.  As an anxiety sufferer everything is now blown out of all proportion.  I am unable to rationalise the tiniest thing.  Worrying about where the next bag of cat litter is coming from becomes all-consuming.  And being stuck in two rooms with no access to the outdoors only makes my already-exhausted mind turn things over and over and over again.  I turn the news off on a weekend.  I can’t stand to hear it.

But, as I said in my last post, as I grow older, I become weirdly more optimistic – I know that one day the worst of this will be through, and I also know that by most people’s standards, my challenges are few.  I have no children or parents to worry about or to have to care for.  I can work from home.  I’m resourceful.  I’m used to spending time alone and making up my own fun.

I should be sailing through this.  But, like you, I am not.

On a more positive day, of which, compared to the past few, this is one, I can look ahead.  I can tell myself that one time soon things will become normal again – even if that normal might look slightly different.  The time will come when there is a vaccine and a cure, and cash and confidence will allow me to be off again, exploring the world as I used to.  Maybe slightly bent out of shape, maybe slightly damaged, but still able to do it.

You may recall in my last post I mentioned something called ’Fifty before I’m 50’.  Not having a bucket list (see: Why I don’t have a bucket list), I decided not that long ago that something I would like to aim for is to travel to 50 countries by the time I’m 50 years old.  I also said that at the last count I had made 42 (for clarification this includes Eire and Vatican City, but not Scotland and Wales which I consider ‘United Kingdom’).

So I’ve got eight countries to get to in the next 30 months.  It was a tall order to start with but given the current Covid-19 crisis and my crap circumstances it’s looking increasingly unlikely.  I suppose I might stretch it so that I complete the 50 in the 11 months after turning 50 (i.e. shortly before my 51st birthday) or I might have to cheat and do a round the world cruise.  Hmmm, maybe not.

Having all this time on my hands has got me thinking about the next eight countries I’d like to visit.  So, despite not really doing the ticking off thing, I was kind of bored this afternoon and I made a Long List (geddit?), coming up with:

1. Ukraine

When I was a teenager I had a Ukranian penfriend.  His name was Roman, although his nickname was Michael.  He had long hair and was obsessed with heavy metal.  He used to write to me and tell me about his family life – he lived in Odessa on the coast of the Black Sea with his mum, dad, sister and grandparents in a two-bedroomed flat and his father, grandfather and grandmother all worked down a mine.  He’d say “I very want to kiss you my baby!” and tell me about the music he was listening to.  His dream was to be a rockstar in the US and he often wrote asking me to send him “one hundred American dollars”.  I used to write back mundane shit such as “ya jivu okala parka” – I live opposite the park and “oo nass bibiliotek” – we have a library.  I somehow scraped a GCSE in Russian, haha. 

One day he sent me a photograph of him dressed in a uniform, his long curly hair all gone.  It said on the back of it “I is in fucking Russian army”.  I never heard from him again after that and I often think of him and wonder where he is now and how his life turned out.

I suppose ever since then I’ve had an interest in travelling to that part of the world and now with budget flight options available from the UK (save for what’s going on at the moment) it seems it might become a reality.  I’m thinking Lviv – a friend went a few years ago and raved about its cafe culture, architecture and proximity to the Carpathian mountains – or maybe Kiev.

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2.  Vietnam

I had a trip all mapped out a couple of years ago but events overtook themselves and I never got around to booking the flights.  Definitely somewhere near the top of the list.  Three weeks isn’t really enough to even scratch the surface but it’s all I’ll have.  The plan will be to start in Hanoi and travel to Ho Chi Minh – or vice versa.  Time in the Mekong Delta and at coastal resorts along the way goes without saying.

3.  Jordan

Specifically, of course, the ancient city of Petra – one of the world’s most famous archaeological sites and one of the new Seven Wonders of the World (talking of which, I would also love to go to the Taj Mahal but India solo isn’t happening for this girl any time soon!).

4.  Namibia

I went to Africa in 2014, spending a short amount of time in Botswana at Chobe National Park .  It blew my mind. 

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I’m reliably informed that Namibia is Botswana and then some.  I bought a travel guide a while back – I just need to read it and get planning!

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5. Cuba

In my early 20s I went to the pub one Friday night with a couple of friends.  Alcohol akimbo, we hatched a plan for the three of us to travel to somewhere none of us had ever been – and, rather randomly at the time, we decided on Cuba.  Like most drunken dreams it never came to fruition. I’m no longer in touch with those friends, sadly, but I’d still love to go to somewhere which, in my mind, will be a destination unlike any other, given its tumultuous history and varied influences.  Ideally I’d like to get to both the bustling city of Havana with its colonial buildings and to a beach resort like Varadero or Cayo Largo to sink a mojito or two.

6. New Zealand

In 2014 I took a temporary job which was supposed to be for five months.  My plan after that was to go to New Zealand for three months.  Six years later – after being made permanent then given a promotion, leaving for pastures new and then going back, I’m somehow still there – and waiting to take the journey that I had planned for the beginning of 2015.  A trip of that magnitude is unlikely to ever happen now.  But at the very least I’d love to be able to go for for a couple of weeks, immerse myself in some Maori culture, walk the Milford Track and recreate my mum’s journey to the top of Mount Cook.  I have a wonderful photo of her somewhere standing next to a helicopter in the snow.

7. Slovakia

I had a trip booked to Ljubljana last year which I decided to cancel.  I had heard that it’s the greenest city in Europe – apparently this isn’t so, although it was named the European Green Capital in 2016.  With its numerous watercourses and bridges, not least the famous Dragon Bridge, Tivoli Park and Castle and with access to Lake Bled, it sounds like my kind of place, perfect for ambling and discovering.  Definitely one to rebook!

8.  Belize

A surprising new addition.

I’m not a big lover of TV but every now and again I chance up a programme I like and it becomes all-consuming.  At the moment I am obsessed with Race Across the World.  If you haven’t seen it, I won’t go in to its intricacies but if you’re remotely interested in travel, people or even just an informative and entertaining watch then you should check it out.

In this series the participants are tasked with travelling from Mexico City to Ushuaia, Argentina.

In episode one the travellers have to get from the starting point to their first checkpoint, Copan Ruinas, in Honduras.  Of course all roads lead to Rome so the various contestants take different routes – some of which are through Belize.  I’ll be honest, I’d heard of it but I didn’t really know much about it.  Now, having seen it on TV, I need to visit it for myself. 

More research needed on this one but it’s definitely somewhere I want see before I pop my pumps.  Its national parks, forests, cayes and lesser-know barrier reef are particular draws for me.

So there we are.  Pie in the sky, quite frankly.  But hey it’s okay to dream.  It’s all we can do right now.

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I read something the other day that said:

“Here is the world.

Beautiful

and terrible

things will happen.

Don’t be afraid”.

 

I don’t mind admitting that it reduced me to tears.

 

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones.

Shauna x

Published by Shauna

Hi. I'm Shauna, a 40-something solo tripster. By tripster I mean part-time traveller. solong.blog is an amalgamation of plenty of personal rambling on my experiences when travelling on my own, how I feel, where I've been and what I've seen, and advice on how to go solo if you've never done it before but always wanted to try. After all, if I can do it, anyone can!

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