Winter is approaching and the time has come to think about the next destination, the place where to find shelter from the cold of Milan. Usually at the beginning of October I already have my plane ticket in my hand and I’m as happy as an Easter but this year I’m still in the dark. The only certainty is that I will not return to South America, everything else is wrapped in a stratospheric question mark. Maybe it will sound ridiculous to someone given how big the world is but believe me, deciding where to spend three months of your life is not like choosing where to spend three weeks. That’s why this time, since time is really short, I decided to launch an SOS. I’ve selected five exotic destinations where I’d like to spend the winter in 2018 and I’d need your help composing the puzzle. You are more or less familiar with my priorities. Natural and wild places, human contact with the locals, summer temperatures to end the journey drinking fresh coconut under a palm tree and, last but not least, minimal economic impact on the wallet So, can you give me a hand?
THAILAND, THE LAND OF SMILES
As I have said many times, I know little and nothing about Asia. It has never attracted me particularly even though, I recognise, Sri Lanka has been a pleasant surprise. That’s probably why I started to see Thailand as one of the exotic destinations where I can warm my bones next winter.
Maybe I never told you this but before returning from my trip to Burma I spent about ten days between Ko Phangan and Phuket. Definitely a bit ‘tourist for my taste but remember a sea enchanting.
Now, whether it’s chance or fate I don’t know but just a few days ago, wandering on the web, I ended up in the guide of Club Med Magazine that tickled my curiosity. In addition to a series of practical information on how to organize a trip to Thailand – moving around Asia for me is a bit like crawling, I have to start from the ABC – I found a series of interesting articles and beautiful photos that have dismantled one of my preconceptions. In Thailand there are not only beautiful beaches and nightlife as I thought…
The season is the right one to start discovering the north of the country that, according to my friend Matte, whom I trust blindly, could be right for me. Between lush nature and Buddhist culture, it would be a good starting point to finally break the ice with Southeast Asia.
If I like it, since I don’t miss the time, I could go beyond the Thai borders to sail on the Mekong, reach Cambodia in the direction of Angkor Wat and return to Thailand to end the journey on some paradisiacal beach. Possibly a little bit of a trend in which to practice a bit of yoga, meditation and dedicate myself to writing.
The fact that flights to Bangkok are among the lowest in circulation and that they call it the land of smiles certainly plays in favor of Thailand. The success of a trip, in my opinion, starts from the sunshine of its people.
A DREAM CALLED INDONESIA
Another exotic destination I’d like to spend the winter in is Indonesia. Here too, as in Thailand, I am completely fasting but it became part of my dreams after watching the movie Eat, Pray, Love. Do you know it? Okay, it’s not a big movie, but the scenes shot in Bali gave me an enviable sense of peace. Then of course, if I also found my Javier Bardem during a bicycle ride, it would not be bad…
I know that saying Indonesia means saying everything and nothing. I don’t even know how many hundreds of islands it is made up of, but with three months at my disposal I think I can make a good run for it. In Bali I have a French friend who would host me for a few days and then from there I would start to smell here and there until I reach Borneo which, I don’t know why, is the part that inspires me the most.
Exactly as it happened when I decided to leave for Mali and Colombia – the first on the input of a photo and the second on a novel – if I left for Indonesia I wouldn’t plan anything. I would simply let myself be guided by instinct.
RETURN TO AFRICA, TO THE LAND OF THE MASAI
Before I got involved with South America, I explored much of West Africa. Between 2006 and 2010, the Sahel countries were my refuge for the soul.
What drove me back, year after year, was the hospitality of its people still strongly attached to ancestral rituals and traditions. I think of the Dogon in Mali, who consider themselves children of a star, or in Ouidah, in Benin, where in January each year the cult of vodus is celebrated and the thousands of slaves deported at the time of colonization are recalled. But I also think of the colours of the women’s clothes, the sounds and rhythms of djembé, kora and balafon that liven up the evenings in the villages, the griots that pass on the stories from generation to generation, the lively looks of the children who have nothing but always smile. I am thinking of all this and the desire to return to Africa reappears urgently, as if seven days or seven centuries had passed instead of seven years…
To what I’d like to find again, I’d like to add the thrill of a safari. I’ve been around the world for twenty years and apart from a few giraffes in Niger and a couple of elephants in Sri Lanka, I’ve never been able to see any of the animals I dreamed of when I was a child! A shame… jokes aside, it’s something I’d really like!
Why did I think about Kenya in so many places? Because I have a friend who is madly in love with it and talks to me about it all the time! Because even here air tickets are cheap and maybe from there I can go to Uganda for a rafting of those who do not forget. Because years ago I read a wonderful book, La Masai bianca by Corinne Hoffman in which, in some ways, I saw myself again. Because I have a friend who follows an association of assistance to street children and maybe I could stop with them to do volunteer work. And because not knowing that part of Africa at all, one place is worth the other…
AMONG THE EXOTIC DESTINATIONS PAR EXCELLENCE… THE NAMIBIA
I have very little to say here because the chances of me going to Namibia are almost nil. As far as I know, it is a very expensive country and my choice to give up a few months’ salary in order to dispose more freely of my time has, of course, its drawbacks. Of course, I will buy a nice Scratch Card in the next few days, who knows if fate is on my side once again as it happened with my first trip to Colombia. If that were the case, I would not think twice about it. I’ve been dreaming about Namibia for years and the postcard photos that I see going around facebook groups for travelers do nothing but feed my desire! As they say, hope is the last to die… if it’s not this year, sooner or later its turn will come!
THE NORTH OF MEXICO, IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF CASTANEDA
I have been to Mexico twice, in 2000 and 2003. I was still a budding traveler, very happy to have a month of time that at the time I thought was more than enough to know a country. But beyond being a budding traveler, I was a totally different person. Probably, if I were to go back there now, I would face the journey with another spirit. I would certainly go back to San Cristóbal de las Casas, Palenque and Zipolite, three places that have remained in my heart, but what I really want to discover is the north of the country.
You should know that on my return from my first trip I was intrigued by the books of Juan Carlos Castaneda, author of The Teachings of Don Juan in which he tells of his experiences with the shaman in the region of Sonora. Well, don’t take me for a fool but after my adventure with Ayahuasca in the Peruvian forest, I wouldn’t mind trying peyote, if you find the right situation.
E poi comunque il Messico è una meraviglia, tra siti archeologici, cucina strepitosa, spiagge caraibiche, deserto, gente buena onda e chi più ne ha più ne metta…
Ecco qui. Ciò non significa che non ci siano altri posti al mondo in cui mi piacerebbe svernare ma a tre mesi dalla prossima partenza direi che è il caso di mettere dei paletti altrimenti finisce che torno in Colombia per la settima volta!
Coraggio, aprite i vostri scrigni e beneficiare di consigli e di sogni ad occhi aperti. Al posto mio, quale di queste mete scegliereste? E quali sono le vostre ragioni?