Pete Vinotai, 127 TCCS
If time and money weren’t an issue, I would travel to every country in the world, without a doubt. A private mercenary army to escort me through the perilous sands of Syria, a sleek ship and hardened crew on a voyage to Antarctica, and maybe a fleet of African camels to hump through the Kalahari Desert, those will be a few my little splurges. But I’ll try to keep it realistic. For me, the ideal journey will be a trek through things new and wonderful. I love Thailand, but my time here has left me yearning to experience different cultures and peoples. I’d time my country visits so that it would coincide with the festivals and ideal visiting times. Also as a foodie, frequent food stops will be a must for me. So with that said, here’s a barebones idea of my COS dream travel.
My first step is to trek around Southeast Asia. I curve around from Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam in six weeks. Every local thinks I’m from his or her country at first and is confused on why I don’t understand a word. I fly northeast and allocate a week to hang in Taiwan with a good friend from college. My friend goes to hang with his grandma; I fly to Japan to observe some gorgeous groves of cherry blossom trees in bloom, and then eat sushi until I get sick. I have already planned a trip for Japan during my service, so I wouldn’t stay after COS too long. I take the ferry from the southern tip of Japan to Busan, South Korea. I loved South Korea on my last visit, the food, the atmosphere, and the nature. I take this time to explore bustling Busan and luscious Jeju Island, something I wasn’t able to do last time. After filling my stomach with Soju and Korean BBQ for a week, I fly to Mongolia and go camping with a nomadic family. Outdoor activities will be incredible, from riding camels through the Gobi to hiking through the awe-inspiring Valley of Eagles. I sweat off the calories from East Asia within three weeks. Finally, I board the Trans-Siberian rail at Ulaanbaatar to start the second half of my trip.
Two weeks has passed, and I’m in Moscow. It’s late-June/early-July, and I’ve made stops throughout Russia including St. Petersburg, where I see the White Nights Festival and a mock pirate battle on the Neva River. My diet has transitioned from rice and stir-fry to stews and dumplings. I bid farewell to Mother Russia and tramp through Eastern Europe. Budapest, Prague, Bucharest and Amsterdam are my main targets. Europe will be a plan-as-I-go affair, but with the end goal of making the San Fermin Festiva in Pamplona, Spain. As of this writing, I haven’t received any major injuries since leaving the US for Peace Corps, and what better, final way to test my luck than against a pissed-off, charging bull? I plan on running fast. So I’ll spend around a month in Europe. I’ve never been a huge fan of wine, but I imagine it’ll grow on me by the end. Finally, I take a flight to Iceland. I breathe a great sigh of satisfaction as I sip a cold beer and gaze at the Northern lights. And so the next morning, I step onto a plane destined for the US with a wallet remarkably light, but with a heart immeasurably rich.
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