Thursday, January 27, 2011

Already the Bucket List has shifted

From my last post you would have thought that I was pretty well settled on where I want to travel this year, right? Well, here's a curve ball.

I'm not sure how it happened, but I think it was a culmination of three things; a perfect storm of events. First, I watched the new series An Idiot Abroad last weekend, and in the first episode, our protagonist/idiot Karl was sent to the Great Wall of China. Loved the episode, for sure, but the seed may have been planted there. The next thing that happened was that I got some form of viral infection that left me delirious, fever-bound and bed-ridden for five days. In the midst of the illness, I saw on a Facebook feed that Access China Tours does "Panda Volunteer Tours" that build in three days at a panda conservatory in China. Now if you know me at all on Facebook, you know that I'm virtually raising a panda cub at the Atlanta Zoo right now. Indeed, this is not the first cub I have raised while working a 40 hour a week job. Back in the 90s, I raised the first cub born in the US that survived to adulthood over the webcam at the San Diego Zoo. I love animals, I love baby animals and I am smitten with pandas, even though I've only ever seen them twice, once in 2001 in San Diego and once in 2009 in DC. In fact, the cub I saw in DC then is now living at the conservatory I could volunteer at in China.

So all that said, in the midst of my febrile haze, I wrote Access China Tours to see if they'd do another trip like that this year. They've already responded that they are planning one for September, and that details would be coming out in February. The question is now, can I afford this (probably) and do I really want to do this or is it all just crazy talk? I reject the notion that it may just be crazy talk because the aforementioned DC trip was taken specifically to see the Terra Cotta Warrior exhibit that was ongoing then. I'm definitely interested.

What makes the Access China Tour attractive to me is that it is fairly short, only 11 days, but it covers Beijing a bit, Shanghai a bit and the panda thing. It'd be a nice introduction (Forbidden City, Great Wall) and leave me with a taste for whether I want to return to China more in depth later. And I get to hold a baby panda in the process. Plus too, after Russia, I'm feeling like I want to up the ante again. "Just" going back to Europe would feel less exciting than it usually does. China would be another "experience" that would push me outside my comfort zone, but also the panda volunteering would be a chance to do something out of the ordinary, which is the stuff memories are made of.

So everything for this year is on hold until I figure this out. I want to see an itinerary and do some research on the travel company. But I really, really do want to work with pandas...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

2011: Looking ahead

As I sit here fighting some sort of virus and languishing somewhat lethargically between winter storms, I'm fighting the early-winter blues by sketching out my travel plans for the year. I've already gotten 8 days off approved for May, now it's just a matter of deciding how to use it. If anything gets me going, and indeed keeps me going, it's planning a trip. And then anticipating it.

So far in the forefront of my mind is Poland. I'm not sure exactly how it jumped into the bucket list, but I returned from Russia and already knew that's where I would go next. I don't remember anything I learned or saw in Russia that would make me want to go there. Maybe latest news of the theft of the sight at Auschwitz put the bug in my ear. Maybe hearing that it won't be kept up by the government much longer makes me want to see it. But there's more to Poland than just the concentration camps. Indeed, Jowita, the aid at my physical therapist's office, has listed many places I need to try to see. She introduced the idea of Gdansk (a delightful seaside village on the Baltic Sea) and encouraged me to skip Warsaw for her beloved Krakow. Right now I have an idea of flying into Gdansk, either flying or training to Warsaw and then taking the train to Krakow, where I'd spend four days and fly home from there. This is all hypothetical, except I know exact dates/flights/prices and have even scoped out hotels.

Later in the year I'll want another longer trip. Right now I'm kicking around Germany, Croatia and Peru. Believe it or not I have only been to Cologne in Germany, and my ongoing fascination with all things World War II and such really lends itself to going to Germany, probably Berlin and surrounds (including Dresden) and maybe Munich. I don't know. Croatia's on the bucket list and it'd be beautiful in the early fall.

After that, I'm thinking a quick trip to Philadelphia to see the Barnes Foundation for its collection of Impressionist art and the Rembrandt exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I've never been to Philly and would actually like to see all that it has to offer in the way of American-history.

But who knows. My bucket list has been disrupted before, it may be again.