I’ve been on the road for nearly 4 years now, and most people think I’ve seen all there is to see and done all there is to do.
After all, I’ve fostered elephants in the jungles of Thailand, met Myanmar’s Karen tribe, stayed and meditated in a monastery in Tibet, camped in the Great Wall of China and trekked across Central Asia.
While this might already seem a lot, I’ve actually only been to 16 countries by hiking and hitchhiking. I engage in slow, immersive travel, which allows me to gain a good grasp on the culture and traditions of the country that I’m exploring.
Aside from this, I carry a Philippine passport, which makes entry a majority of countries abroad similar to a camel going through the eye of a needle. To be able to enter visa-required countries, I had to spend a great deal of time exploring visa-free nations first. Once I’ve proved that I’m a frequent traveler, I have to amass a certain sum that testifies that I have the means to travel.
That’s not even half of the process, but I’ll save these stories for another day. We’re here to talk about 5 items on my bucket list that I’d like to tick off once it’s safe enough to travel again. I hope you can get inspiration from these travel goals too.
1. Visit Iceland
Whenever people ask me what’s my dream travel destination, I always respond with Iceland.
And what’s not to love about the country? Iceland’s nature is out of this world. They’ve got all these black sand beaches, snow-capped mountains, thundering waterfalls, mighty volcanoes, a midnight sun, the northern lights, gorgeous glaciers, lovely lagoons and ice caves that come straight out of a fairytale.
Speaking of fairy tales, Icelandic folklore makes the country even more magical. Tiny red houses are scattered all over Iceland, acting as shelters for huldufolk or elves.
Oh and did I mention you could also snorkel between tectonic plates or spot whales while exploring these beautiful landscapes?
My ultimate dream is to be able to work remotely in Iceland, but unfortunately, I’m not qualified to apply for their digital nomad visa yet. The monthly income required to be qualified for a visa is way beyond my paygrade, but I’m hoping that one day I’ll grow this blog and earn enough money to live in Iceland and the Schengen zone for a year!
2. Go on a month-long solo horse trek in Mongolia
Prior to my goal to hike and hitchhike half the world, I had my eyes set on doing at least a month-long solo horse trek in Mongolia. I wanted to go from a non-rider to horse whisperer traversing the vast steppes of the beautiful and nearly untouched nation.
I knew that this experience would not only be a challenge to my physical capabilities. It would also be a challenge to my mental capacity to stay out in the wild for days without a single soul in sight. I would be vulnerable to the threat of wolves and the possibility of losing my horses to them. I would be exposed to the threats posed for a solo female camper. I would be at the mercy of nature, which can be unforgiving at times (just like my sandstorm experience during my 5-day desert trek in Kazakhstan).
While the experience presents these difficulties, the rewards outweigh them all: a glimpse into colorful nomadic culture, breathtaking and untouched landscapes, freedom in the wild, peace and solitude unlike any other, the opportunity to travel as if you were back in time, mastery of the saddle and a rare chance to bond with your horses over the course of a long journey.
3. Amazing Afghanistan
Most people who know I want to visit Afghanistan think I’m crazy to want to fly to or even hitchhike in the country.
When you talk about plans to visit Afghanistan, people automatically think danger. While I do recognize that the country remains an area of conflict, I know that Afghan people, like their neighboring Tajik and Iranian brothers and sisters, are characterized with warmth and hospitality.
Having immersed myself in Persian cultures before, I can’t wait to observe the similarities and differences. I can’t wait to learn more about Afghan culture and customs. More than these, I can’t wait to meet people I’ve been in touch with too. The country was supposed to be on my route to hike and hitchhike half the world; however, COVID happened, and I didn’t push through with the visa application.
Now that it’s open for tourists, I might actually go!
I’m an avid hiker, but so far I’ve only done multi-day treks. Thru-hiking takes the walking part of my journey to a different level. I’m not only summiting a mountain or covering a short distance. I’m going to do a long-distance backpacking trip where I have the opportunity to trek across states, regions and countries entirely on foot.
Now, thru-hiking requires careful planning. Logistics-wise, it won’t be easy to cover such long distances with a month-long visa that’s usually attached to my passport. While it would be enough for short thru-hikes, I don’t want visa length to be the determining factor dictating how far or how long I’ll go on a trail. It simply isn’t fair and reinstates the fact that unique forms of travel like this remains accessible only for the privileged.
Aside from this, you also have to worry about a slew of other things: the gear, the food, the length, the pace, the training, and the plan for your off trail life once you start walking.
There are plenty of thru-hikes that you can choose from. The most popular ones are probably America’s Pacific Crest Trail and its Appalachian Trail; however, there’s also the Camino de Santiago, the Transcaucasian Trail, the Lycian Way, the Greater Patagonian Trail, the Great Himalayan Trail, the Transcarpathian Trail and so many others.
Thru-hike requires as much mental strength as physical preparedness.
Much like the difficulties presented in my horse trekking goal in Mongolia, thru-hiking solo is made extra challenging with all these vulnerabilities for a female and for a camper. It also sets off at a much slower pace than being on a saddle, so you can count on a longer period without the comforts of regular life or isolation, if you’re traversing solo.
Moreover, some thru-hiking trails are so long that you have to go through different seasons and bring or swap seasonal gear, so you have to be financially equipped to have the equipment that can withstand these changes.
5. Finally reach Africa
Anybody who knows me knows that one of my favorite books is Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. Because of this, I’ve always had my eyes set on heading to Morocco and reaching Tangier, where I want to be inked with the words “maktub,” which comes from the renowned book itself.
Anybody who knows me also knows that I want to sing the chorus to Toto’s Africa the minute I set foot on my first country in the continent. (Yes, I’m totally doing that.)
There’s so much to say about Africa, so what’s a reason not to set foot in it. Their wildlife roams free and takes charge of the surroundings. Their tribes have a vibrant culture we can all learn from. Their landscapes are raw and always beckoning you for a challenge. The diversity is amazing that you’ll never encounter a dull moment.
A trip of Africa will open your senses and is sure to be highly educational. The safaris will teach you more about animals than the four corners of your classroom ever will. Immersing with its people will smash the horrible stereotypes set by mainstream or whitewashed media about the continent. Going through its jungles will provide new insights about preservation and conservation. Stopping by its historical sites will have you traveling back through time.
Africa is vibrant and unlike any other continent, and that’s why I made it the final point of my journey to hike and hitchhike half the world.
But then again, I’m thinking of hiking and hitchhiking the other half too!