A Travel Hit List for my 30th year

January 3, 2017

chefchaoen, morocco, view

This year I will turn 30. FOGO isn’t something I really suffer from, but I’d be lying if I said the thought didn’t send a shiver down my spine.

As long as I am happy when that day comes, that’s all that matters. But I’d also like to have ticked a few more boxes on my travel bucket list when that day comes, which, for the record, is May 6th. So technically, I’m already well into my 30th year, but now we’re in 2017 it’s actually started to sink in.

To mark the occasion, I’ve decided to do something I’ve wanted to do ever since I found out about it about 6 years ago…

The Big One: Camino de Santiago, Spain

Cirauqui, Camino de Santiago, Spain

Pilgrims approaching Cirauqui on the Camino de Santiago (Source: Four Jandals)

This is Spain’s famous pilgrimage route, also known as “the way of St. James“, which stretches across Northern Spain.

Although there are many pilgrim routes which lead to the great cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, in northwestern Spain, the main route begins in France. So yes, it’s a pretty long walk.

It takes a month to walk, and that’s if you cover an average of 30km per day. Since I can’t really afford to take 1 month off work, I’m going to try and cut the trip down to 2-3 weeks, which will mean skipping a section in the middle somewhere. If anyone has done this I’d really appreciate some advice!

Why the Camino de Santiago?

There are several reasons I want to walk the Camino de Santiago. Firstly, I’m told it’s a humbling, pretty much life-changing experience that inspires spiritual growth. I wouldn’t say I was a particularly spiritual person, but I’m definitely open-minded and in need of a major digital detox. People say there is a unique sense of camaraderie on the Camino de Santiago, among people from all walks of life with incredible stories to tell.

A few months ago a story about a guy with 96% cerebral palsy disability went viral after he and his brother, who pushed him the entire way, completed the epic 800km route from start to finish (ideal.es). They did it all in one go to demonstrate that such a feat is possible for the severely disabled.

So if you’re looking for fresh perspectives, inspiring stories and a reality check or two (which I always am), el Camino de Santiago almost certainly promises gratification.

Secondly, Spain is an absolutely beautiful country with a wonderful culture that I miss a lot. That, after all, is why I lived there for nearly 6 years. In that time I only visited Northern Spain once – a week in País Vasco, which included trips to Bilbao, San Sebastian and Pamplona. It was amazing and frankly I can’t believe I’ve never been back up north since. The scenery along the Camino de Santiago is apparently breathtaking, and images like this from Jess of Curiosity Travels pretty much confirm that:

camino de santiago, o cebreiro

Sunrise from the hilltop village of O’ Cebreiro (Source: Curiosity Travels)

Then there’s the fact I don’t want to resign another birthday to a booze-fuelled night out. I have enough of those already and I want to do something special for my 30th. So, other than a rationed and shared bottle of my favourite rum (if only I could get my hands on a bottle of Santiago de Cuba), there will be no drinking involved. At least not of the irresponsible kind.

Other Trips on my Travel Hit List for 2017

Amsterdam, Holland

This year I’ll be taking my third trip to Amsterdam, Holland. The last two times are very hazy – I’m sure you can imagine why. But despite promising myself the next time I went I’d go easy on the herbal treatment, this time promises to be no less intoxicating, since I will be part of an unruly stag party.

With a bit of luck I’ll find time to do some sober exploring.

Madrid, Spain

real madrid stadium, santiago bernabeu

Estado Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid (Source: FlickrCC Chris Brown)

My best friend also turns 30 this year and wants to go to Madrid to catch Real Madrid in action. I could hardly say no to that. I love Madrid, I love football and I miss speaking Spanish terribly – as in I miss speaking Spanish a great deal now that I live back in the UK; not that I enjoy speaking spanish badly.

Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon, Portugal, yellow tram, metro, yellow lisbon, colour

Also chalking up its third line on my ‘been there’ list in 2017 will be Lisbon, Portugal. And I feel slightly abashed to admit it will be for the purpose of yet another stag party. What can I say? I’m having a big year and I’ve got a solid group of mates whose 30th birthdays and bachelor parties I’d never dream of missing.

I know this city reasonably well, particularly the street art scene, so won’t necessarily be desperate to cram in as much as possible around the carnage that will inevitably take place. I’ll be happy with a cocktail and an exquisite Portuguese pastry.

Krakow, Poland

Despite being just a short and very cheap flight away, Krakow is one of those places I always tell myself I will visit but never actually do. I’ve heard fantastic things about its culture, food and party scene. As a 29-year old singleton in search of a mini solo adventure to close the curtains on his twenties, the time to finally visit may have come.

Panama / Colombia

colombia, lost city

Colombia’s Lost City (Source: Indie Traveller)

Option 1 of 2 for a longer trip at the end of the summer, depending on available funds, I would love to continue my staggered tour of Latin America.

Last year I spent 5 months exploring Cuba, Mexico and Central America. This year I want to pick up where I left off in Panama, home of the San Blas Islands and corrupt Panamanian law firms, and make my way down to Colombia, home of incredibly beautiful landscapes and equally as beautiful women.

Morocco

chefchaoen, morocco, view

Chefchaouen, Morocco (Source: The Italian Backpacker)

Option 2, if not as much as I hope is left in the kitty. Morocco is closer and therefore cheaper to get to. Having lived in Andalucía, Spain, for nearly 6 years, from where you can actually see Morocco on a clear day, it’s truly a shame that I still haven’t been.

I’d love to taste an authentic Lamb tagine in Tangier, roam the blue buildings of Chefchaouen, delve into the Suks of Marakesh and wear a fez in well, Fez.

Antarctica

Well, you just never know…

How about it? Anyone out there done the Camino de Santiago? I’d appreciate any advice! 🙂

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