My Travel Plans for The Forseeable Future… Plenty of Stan’s

 

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oung Huckleberry Finn had travel planning right. Grab a stick, throw it over your shoulder, tie on a checkered handkerchief wrapped around a loaf of bread and a cheap bottle of whiskey. Take your shoes off, put a stalk of wheat in your mouth, say goodbye to the Widow Douglas and hit the road with a spring in your step for destinations unknown. Twain created some downright hokey, but enduringly inspirational imagery. He knew that the journey is far more important than the destination. Planning isn’t that important, just let the road unfold beneath you. As much as I look up to Huck, this time around I’ve done just a little bit of travel planning. However, in my opinion, the world needs another “these are my travel plans for the next six months” article, about as much as we need another American mother dressing their five year old daughter like a hooker and hitting the pagent circuit. And yet, here we are.

This isn’t a habit – the last time I wrote about my travel plans was in December 2012. Back then, I could have never predicted what would eventuate. My plans were scant, simply involving getting out of Western Europe, and heading into the unknown lands of the Balkans. My ideas didn’t involve purchasing a twenty year old French hatchback for 350 Euro, nor driving it through 28 countries, taking a road trip that lasted over 18,000km’s through two continents, and making friends for life. Yeah, stuff happens. Little did I know, back in late 2012, that the Balkans would become by far my favourite part of Europe. That’s the unexpected benefit of Huckleberrying it.

But today, day number seven-hundred-and-sixty-four on my journey, I’m leaving Belgrade, and heading out of Serbia. This time, I’ve dared to plan, and to dream, well into 2015. If you’re reading this, my auto-publish worked – I’m currently sitting on the Niš Express heading to Skopje, the wonderfully confused capital of Macedonia – first stop on a journey that will cover over a dozen nations.

Please, avenge my death if no further posts show up here. Thanks in advance.

 

Belgrade Gun Club Bar
The moment Phillipa almost loses control of a fully automatic 9mm gun, loaded with ten real bullets, inside a bar. This, is Belgrade in one photo. It’s blurry, grainy, I had  the shutter speed too low, and nothing in the entire frame is in focus. It could have been taken with any camera, or even a phone. It’s not important. There are so many things technically “wrong” with that photo, but you know what? I don’t care. I’ll cherish that memory, and that photo, for years to come. Belgrade has become a second home for Phillipa and I, more than any other city. Thank you, Belgrade – I’ll be back.

 

Currently, Kosovo is not recognised as an independent nation by around half of the world’s governments, but I’ll be happy to call it flag number fifty-five on my personal list. After spending a few weeks winding through Albania and Macedonia (Europe’s most devastatingly under-visited nations), with a new Yomadic gang (third and final Yomadic trip of 2014), a quick visit to Kosovo will be followed by a whirlwind visit of Bulgaria and Turkey, to catch up with friends (that reminds me, I should let them know I’m coming) and lay the ground-work for something I’m working on for 2015 – but more on that later.

Come October, the journey proper begins.

It’s time to visit the stunning birthplace of the Black Death. The Plague. Ground zero, for the death of 200 million people (this historical fact does not appear in the glossy brochures).

A vast land, where men don equestrian helmets and use dead goats as polo ball’s.

Where the sights of the world’s worst environmental disasters are framed by an endless backdrop of dramatic snow-capped mountains and majestic steppe, where proud people of ancient cultures live among towering reams of post-Soviet bureaucracy.

Central, Asia. The ‘Stans.

First stop, Bishkek. Capital city of Kyrgyzstan, only nation in the ‘Stans willing to give me a visa-on-arrival, and seemingly holding just the right amount of ex-Soviet shit-hole-ness to make it my kind of city. Megan Starr agrees, and and I know how bad that sounds, but coming from either of us, it’s a compliment. My plan is to get to know Kyrgyzstan well enough that I can write about it without using a spell-checker, before heading on to the rest of this monumental and varied region.

From Kygyzstan, it will need to be one visa at a time. I hope to visit Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. The order will be determined only by destiny, bribes, and serendipity. Hopefully, a journey though mountains, snow, cities, and nature, meeting a distinct group of historical East meets West silk-road cultures evolving out of a recent stint under the asupices of the Soviet Union. I don’t have a time limit, but I do have a next destination.

After the ‘Stans, I’ll return to my number one tourist destination – Iran. Honestly, if I were to rank the countries in the world in order of “seriously, everyone would love this place” to “Sri Lanka“, Iran would be locked as my number one pick and I can’t wait to return. Last time I visited Iran (with a one-way ticket and no Visa) my entrance was featured in the Washington Post, I had a cut-throat razor haircut in the bathroom of a black-market currency dealer I just met on the streets of Shiraz, took photos at peak prayer time inside one of the worlds most secretive and holy Shia Muslim mosques, and generally had the time of my life in the most unique country I’ve ever visited. I’m hoping to spend another month in this misunderstood and unknown nation, getting to know it a little better.

 

nis serbia shoe shop
No, this isn’t Belgrade. This afternoon I arrived in the city of Niš, third largest city in Serbia, and birthplace of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great – who went on to found Constantinople – now known as Istanbul, largest city in Turkey.
smoking serbian bus driver
It has been said that Serbians are never sure if they should be eating, or smoking. Often, they will do both at the same time. Today, on the bus from Belgrade to Niš.
Niš Serbia shop
Niš, Serbia.
nis serbia downtown street photography
Downtown Niš this evening, before the rain bucketed down. I may be wearing wet jeans on the bus to Skopje, Macedonia, tomorrow morning.

 

There will remain a few surprises, including visits to nations I have purposefully left out of this article. And although the plans get a little vague around early 2015, hopefully, remote tropical islands will be involved after such a cold winter.

As for you, my huckleberry friend, here’s some advice. First, it would be great if you could follow along with my adventures. Second, if you want your own adventure, if you’re healthy, and if you have just a few bucks in your pocket – travel. Now. Just go. For as long as you can. Young or old, family, couple, or solo. Quit your job, pack up, and go. If it doesn’t work out, head back home, richer for the experience.

Life is short, and believe me, it’s too precious to waste.

But, that’s just my opinion.

Oh, and I know haven’t written much about Belgrade, so (for the time being) I’ll provide one important tip:

VISIT. BELGRADE. NOW.

 

 Nate.

 

PS, I should mention, I’m going to start publishing more often. This time, I mean it. Kinda. However, you should jump on the email list to receive the next post, just in case it’s a while between drinks, if you know what I mean. No spam, ever, one-click unsubscribe, and I will never share your email address. Not to mention, the photo’s are bigger in the email, and you will get some exclusive info that I don’t share on here. I’d love to have you onboard.

 

Add your email for free updates and exclusive content:

 

PPS, hope you like the new-style map at the top of the article – it’s fully interactive (check out the links).

 

 

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30 thoughts on “My Travel Plans for The Forseeable Future… Plenty of Stan’s

  1. I’m so excited you’re going to Central Asia! I just moved to Bishkek last week and it will be awesome to see Kyrgyzstan (and the rest of the region) covered from your perspective. So please don’t change your plans too much. Happy travels and до свидания.

    1. Hi Kathi…I’m really excited as well! The plans won’t change, so much as “evolve”…maybe we’ll bump into each other in Bishkek…

  2. excellent! All my dream destinations or the ones I almost visited but I didn’t (I’m looking at you Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan) or the ones I’m going to! ;) I can’t wait to follow your adventures and to hear all about them in Iran :D !

  3. I just spent a week in Macedonia and a week in Albania and I loved them both. Rugged nature, very welcoming people, full of history, and the wonderful slow trains of Macedonia, cruising through landscape right out of a Western movie.
    I have also been to Iran twice and I agree about it as a travel destination. It is one of these countries where you learn something new every day.
    Enjoy!

    1. Hi Andreas… yes, every person I have spoken to who has visited Iran has the same thing to say. It’s amazing. Now, I’ve never caught a slow train through Macedonia, but I will now add it onto my to-do list. Cheers!

  4. I can’t wait to follow along with this! I loved Bishkek when I was there early this year (does anything say romance like a honeymoon in Kyrgyzstan in January?!) and I’m forever trying to convince my (Russian) husband that the former USSR is, in fact, amazing! Please take gorgeous photos as you usually do so I can prove my point!

    1. Hey Polly… I’m personally a huge fan of the former USSR (the countries I have visited so far anyway)… I’ll do my best to help maintain your marital bliss ;)

  5. Looking forward to meeting you. Bring a warm jacket. Don’t expect much from the food but we have all the abandoned buildings you could want in Kyrgyzstan.

    1. Hi Eric! Looking forward to meeting you. I’ve packed some very warm clothes including a big jacket.. hopefully I’ll be fine. And abandoned buildings…hmmm…. it’s sounding better and better ;)

  6. That is awesome! I like your vague plan and I honestly cannot wait to read all about it and follow your trip in such unspoiled yet countries :)

    1. I’m really looking forward to it Franca… I think most of the area is light on tourism, with a few places perhaps already more well known/well travelled. But in general, I think the places I will be visiting might be somewhat unspoiled. Here’s hoping! Damn tourists ;)

  7. Nate, looking forward to reading about upcoming trip to the Stans of Central Asia. I can only agree with about Belgrade. You should all be booking your ticket and enjoy.

    1. Cheers Steve. Glad you enjoyed Belgrade. It seems to be showing up on more and more radars these days – which is a good think IMHO.

  8. Nate, glad to have stumbled upon this blog. It seems you are another Balkan lover like myself. I’m starting off my year long travels in Kotor in fact, have been here for a couple weeks so far before set off to Kosovo, Bosnia and other parts unknown. Thanks for creating this blog!!

    -a
    http://www.nolandforeign.com

    1. Hi Alex! Best part of Europe, IMHO. Don’t forget Macedonia and Albania – well worth a visit. All the best on your journey, stay in touch!

      1. Thanks for the welcome Nate. We are in fact going to be in Macedonia as well – Skopje this time but have been to Ohrid in the past and it’s gorgeous! No Albania this trip, but will have to save for the future. Your recent pics make me think that future should come sooner than later ;)

        Totally agree…best part of Europe!

  9. I am very happy you are returning back to Iran! Such a beautiful place with such great history, you have to thank the Persians for giving us air conditioning, fridges and ice cream it would be difficult to survive and some parts without them!

    With thanks, from Portugal

  10. thanks for the love in this article ;) im laughing at how wellput that sentence was about ex-soviet shit-hole-ness and think i may have to start using the term (making sure i cite you of course).

    your plans make me envious. such a cool and underrated part of the world. if things were normal in my life and i wasnt about to move countries again, id sneak out to bishkek this winter again and visit yall. no joke. i think youre gonna really enjoy the place. it takes a little time, but its such a cool and unique place. hope you get to make it up to almaty in the process (you can skip astana as its hell on earth, just a very cold one in the winter). but i highly, highly suggest going to karaganda if you want some ex-soviet shit-hole-ness. it is quite a ways from anything (as is everything in kazakhstan), but its very decrepit and full of soviet gems (dont miss the airport there, its the best soviet gem of them all).

    blah blah ill quit rambling and just wait until youre out that way and see what your game plan is. im a tad bit jealous. or a lot.

    good luck on your next yogypsy trip!!

    1. How did I not reply to this?

      So, in summary, you should sneak out to central asia this winter ;)

      Cheers for the tips Megan, and all the best with the move!

  11. Oh man, dream trip or what! The Stans and central Asia totally fascinate me. Ever since I spent time in Western Mongolia in the Altai mountains 20 years ago (can’t be so long ago surely?!) I’ve wanted to explore more. Add to that a fascination with ex Soviet shit holes too and you really are living my dream. I can’t wait to travel along with you, with your “more often” posts!

    1. Hey Phoebe! Apologies for the late reply (not yet twenty years ;).

      I think we have a lot in common – I would love to also check out Mongolia one of these days… we’ll see how far I can get.

      And my “more often” posts are distinctly a work in progress, but I’m trying! ;)

  12. Nice map! Good luck and all my best wishes for your grand adventures through the ‘stans.

  13. How terrific! The ‘stans are at the top of my “dream trip” list right now; I can’t wait to hear all about it. And I’d LOVE to go to Iran, if it wasn’t such a pain for little American me to get in.

    Will you be stopping in Istanbul, and if so, when? I won’t be back there until September 24, but it would be nice to finally meet!

  14. As a frequent visitor of Bishkek and a long-time wanderer of the Balkans and Central Asia, I can say it will be everything you want it to be, and so much more. Brave move to do it in winter though, you are aware that Kyrgyzstan will be largely without gas this winter? I can tell you it’s no fun when there is no place in the whole city where you can warm up when it’s cold outside – not your house, not the bar on the corner – it’s just cold. Enjoy!

    PS: Really like your style!

    1. Hey Steven! I check your site out all the time lately, gathering info about Central Asia. IMHO, it’s the best Central Asia resource out there. So, as for that winter, bring it on! (he says from the warmth of South Eastern Europe)

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