The New York Times Travel section has another great article: The 31 Places to Go in 2010. I was already well aware of the general irrelevance of the travel section to my life (as if $250/day would be at all thinkable, let alone the budget option for me), but I can't stop reading it. Even if luxury hotels and, well, basically every restaurant they will ever recommend are out of the question and not even that interesting to me, I still like to read about faraway and not-so-faraway places and look at the photos.
There was an interesting article about visiting Cairo during Ramadan recently, about how lively the city becomes after nightfall, when the fasting of daylight is finally broken. The author didn't address how she was a single woman traveling in Egypt, which I hear can be problematic, but maybe that means it's not as bad as we think? She also didn't mention the Mamluks, the elite corps of manumitted slave soldiers who ruled Egypt and Syria under a puppet Sultan from from 1250-1517, when they fell to the Ottomans. One of my Islamic history professors told the class that the Mamluk architecture is the most interesting thing to see in Cairo, even though everyone wants to see the Ancient Egyptian sites. Not that Cairo is an ancient city; it was built by the Fatimids starting in 969, the year they finally conquered Egypt from the Abbasids.
Now we are way, way off topic and I'm busy being a showoff who secretly (no longer secretly) has to check most of her dates on Wikipedia because the final exam was a few weeks ago. But 969 CE is one I'm going to remember.
Anyway, I like to read the top destinations as listed by the New York Times every year because sometimes I'm going to them, and lists are fun, and why not? For 2008, I think they listed Munich, and that's the year I went to Munich and Germany for the first time. It also included Detroit, which I may have visited a few times... Then, 2009 included Vienna and Cuba and Stockholm and "a Pennsylvania farm," which was pretty funny. I went to Vienna, and a few of the other European locations probably, but unfortunately not Stockholm. This year's is funny because there are three destinations in a row that are introduced as "the next [something else]."
"Koh Kood. Is this the next Koh Samui?" (Islands off Thailand.)
"Damascus. The next Marrakesh?" (Syria. I want to go to Damascus! It was the capital of the Umayyad Caliphate; Baghdad wasn't built until the Abbasids.)
"Cesme. The next Bodrum?" (That's Turkey. I desperately want to go to Turkey. The Bosporous! The Byzantines! The Black Sea!)
I don't even know what Koh Samui or Bodrum are. Great comparisons. Maybe they should be a little more descriptive and a little less lazy. They go on to recommend the original Marrakesh as well. Istanbul's on the list—it's one of the European Capitals of Culture this year. They also like to list places that are obvious, like Costa Rica...already on the radar of the eco-tourist or whatever.
There are no locations on the list I'm likely to visit this year. Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Breckenridge, CO are the only three US destinations. If I achieved my biggest travel wish for the year, the one that has next to no chance of happening but is not unthinkable, I could end up in any one of those cities. What I really want to do is to take the summer and just drive, drive, drive. Especially westward, although the south is almost equally compelling. Barring a night at Circus Circus in Las Vegas during a plane layover, the farthest south I've ever been is Athens, OH. I've wanted to go back to California ever since my dad, brother and I visited my aunt and uncle in Northern California in 2000. But there are several problems with the lengthy road trip idea. One, I don't really like driving all that much. Two, I'd need one or more someones to go with me. Three, I need to make money, not put it all into gas. Four, the '94 Honda Accord I currently drive has no air conditioning, so it would be hard to find someone to go with me and if I did, we would probably die in the middle of a desert or something.
Nevertheless, I can't shake this roadtrip from my mind. In ninth grade, my three best friends and I planned out a loose route for a post-high-school roadtrip around the entire country. We'd stop and visit most of our long-distance relatives: Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York (upstate and city), Connecticut, New Orleans, California. We'd try to see as much of the country as possible in between, while driving Rachel's parents' old minivan, complete with the "Outfox Rabies" bumper sticker dating from the years they lived in Texas. The trip never happened, but the dream lives on. If only I could round up a lot of cash and convince one friend to ditch her relaxed family vacation, another to give up the idea of working, and the last to not go to Poland.
Here are the places I seriously hope to go this year:
1. Lake Michigan.
I haven't been to Lake Michigan since 2000, and that was just one afternoon, because our week-long rental in Petoskey turned out to be a piece of shit and we left after one night. We usually go to Lake Huron, but it's been a while. And summer isn't really summer without the Great Lakes.
2. Rochester, NY.
My mom's sister lives in Rochester, and for a few years, we visited her for a week in the summer with my cousins. Afternoons spent on the beach of Lake Ontario (though you had to call ahead to see if the water was safe that day), playing with really old Barbies in the attic—a real attic!, walking behind waterfalls. I haven't been there since eleventh grade, and that was only one night on the way to visit colleges in NYC. Since my grandpa died, my aunt spends less time in Michigan and it's with her son's family, so we don't see her much. It's high time to go to New York.
3. New York City would be nice too.
4. Rhode Island.
My friend Rachel's family moved to Rhode Island at the end of the summer. I've never been there. Naturally, I should visit over the summer and see them and the ocean and exciting!!
It's probably as unlikely as the road trip west, but I want my family to take our first vacation in about a decade and fly to Arizona, all four of us, during U of M's "spring" break at the beginning of March. One of my uncles and his wife have homes there: a trailer in Mesa, where my grandparents also liked to spend their winters, and a house in the mountains. I've been dying to go to a desert since I was fourteen.
I just really miss visiting our family friends there, enough to put this on the realistic list even though it isn't. Munich in late spring was perfect.