In this post, contributing writer Robert Waite tackles the eternal problem of where not to go next — not because he didn’t love going there the first time, but because….well, there are lots of different reasons, and I’ll let him explain. He also offers advice for readers who would like to go.
By Robert Waite
As vaccines continue to roll out, thoughts once again turn to travel. For baby-boomers, it has been a lost year, subtracted from whatever travel-time we have left.
In my last post for clarknorton.com, I discussed seven places to which I would love to return, to linger longer. In this post, I give you seven places I’ve been to, loved, but will likely never see again, for various reasons.
Each deserves your consideration, post-COVID. Here goes:
My wife and I “won” a trip to the bottom of the planet via a silent auction.
Our vessel, a converted Soviet-era “research” ship, left from Ushuaia, at the southern tip of Argentina, made its way through the Beagle Channel and then across Drake’s Passage to the Antarctic Peninsula.
This was an “adventure” tour, with passengers free to choose between activities like sea kayaking, snowshoeing, skiing, birdwatching, and photo expeditions, the latter led by renowned photographers Oliver Klink and Daisy Gilardini.
My wife and I kayaked, getting up close and personal with all manner of penguins, seals, whales, and some of the most beautiful icebergs imaginable.
We even camped out overnight on the continent. If there is one place I would truly call “otherworldly,” this would be it.
Reason for not going back. It is very, very expensive.
Advice: Book on a small ship. No more than 99 people are allowed on shore at any stop.
2. Machu Picchu, Peru
We took the train from Cusco and opted for the “Inca Trail-Lite” experience, getting off at the km 99 marker and hiking up to the last stretch of the Inca Trail and entering through the Sun Gate.
Yes, this is a bit of a cheat, as it takes four hours vs. four days of trekking. But it is a great way to first catch sight of this magical place, nestled between peaks.
Reason for not going back. Too many other must-see places.
Advice: Splurge on your rail ticket. In the higher-end compartments you are treated to a fashion show and an on-board historian.
3. Easter Island (Rapa Nui)
Although technically part of Chile, in reality you will be visiting the world’s most isolated spot as measured by distance from another human population (about 1,300 miles from Pitcairn Island and more than 2,300 miles from mainland Chile).
The island is famous for its moai statues and for the “Birdman” cult, in which inhabitants vied for scarce resources in a hunger games-like competition involving the retrieval of an egg from a jagged outcropping offshore.
I took my children to Easter Island and we stayed four days. Every day brought new revelations thanks to our guide, a trained anthropologist.
Reason for not going back. In four days, you get a sufficient overview.
Advice: You might want to combine this with a trip to Tahiti, as some planes from Santiago continue onwards. The island’s runway was built by NASA as an emergency landing spot for the Space Shuttle.
4. Luxor, Egypt
The pyramids, sphinx and the Egyptian Museum were all interesting, but there was something truly special about Luxor (and the nearby Valley of the Kings and Karnak Temple), located about 300 miles (500 km) to Cairo’s south, along the Nile.
The sheer scale of the structures at Luxor creates awe. Getting there by train was half the fun. My youngest brother Tom and I booked a first-class sleeping compartment and had our meal – roast pigeon – served in the room. There was also a lively scene in the club car.
Reason for not going back. Egypt is not an easy place to be. Tom literally saved my wallet (and perhaps my life) when I passed out from sunstroke on the rail platform.
Advice: Be prepared to fend off those asking for “backsheesh”. And don’t play table-tennis in the noon-day sun.
5. 88 Temple Hike, Shikoku Island, Japan
No, I am not going to make a crack that “If you’ve seen one temple, you’ve seen them all”. Nor am I going to tell you we did the whole hike – far from it.
I will say it is well worth going to this less visited of the four main Japanese islands as the scenery along the trail is beautiful, including sections wending through tea plantations and picturesque villages. This is a far different Japan than you experience in Tokyo, Kyoto, or Nara.
Reason for not going back. OK, you’re right – if you’ve seen one temple, you’ve seen them all.
Advice: Visit a local onsen (hot spring bath) at the end of the day.
As I related in an earlier post, Namibia, formerly known as German Southwest Africa, has in recent years been attracting the attention of tourists and tour companies.
There are some great wildlife parks and reserves, interesting coastal enclaves, the world’s highest sand dunes, and an entire mining town shipped from Germany and set up in the middle of nowhere.
The capital, Windhoek, still retains German touches, including street names and faux-Bavarian facades, despite the fact the Germans were forced to cede the country in 1919.
Reason for not going back. There are just too many other parts of Africa left to visit.
Advice: Make sure your driver/guide speaks English (or that you have a professional translator from Switzerland as a fellow traveler).
7. West Coast, Ireland
I expect many will see this as an odd nominee as a place not to go back to. But this one is deeply personal.
My two brothers and I took our dad to Ireland’s west coast in the 1990’s. He was Irish on his mom’s side, so there was an ancestral angle.
We combined golf, stays in castles and inns, and visits to pubs with wanderings around the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula. The June weather was near perfect – no rain seven out of the eight days.
We siblings behaved ourselves and our dad clearly enjoyed every minute of our time there. It is now filed away as a cherished interlude in the memory bank.
Reason for not going back. Our dad is gone, and it just wouldn’t be the same.
Advice: Practice your golf drives – the starters at the first tee at the better courses have the right to toss you off if they detect a duffer.
There are other places I might have included on the once-only list, including Angkor Wat, Tikal, and Isuzu Falls. And there are some upcoming destinations I’m pretty sure I’ll only visit once, including the Galapagos and the Panama Canal. So little time; so much to see. Such is the Boomer’s lament.
Robert Waite has been writing on travel for more than 50 years. He currently teaches at Seneca College in Toronto and is Managing Partner at Waite + Co., a communications consulting firm with offices in Boston, Ottawa and Toronto.