I have been mulling over my 2011 plans for a few months now.  2011 is going to end up being a big year for me, one way or another.

I need to come up with a source of income this year.  I feel confident I can make it through the rest of this year fairly easily (especially abroad) with the savings that I still have, but the time is neigh to me having to come up with some plan to start making money for the future — hopefully a future that still involves a load of travel.

The last few months have been incredibly productive in terms of creative formulation.  In the next few weeks, I am going to announce a travel bloggers challenge concept that I think we will be able to pull off later this fall.  I’ve got a long-shot television thing that I personally think is great, but who the hell knows — that business is like playing the lottery.  And about three iPhone/website ideas and I like all of them and might try to do them all.

Hoping that one or more of these things come together in the next six months, so that I can manage a location independent life.  I love it out there.  A lot.

But enough of talk of the struggle for the legal tender.   Let’s talk about travel.  Here is what I think I am up to for 2011.

One of the things that I can come to love in the last couple years is diving.  I am not great at it, but the sights underwater give me the kind of joy and happiness that is hard to explain to those that haven’t seen it.  The world is entirely different down there.

And I want more.

So I am going to go back to the Middle East.  My plan is to fly to Istanbul in early February.  I love that city.  It will also be really good to meet the Turkeys for Life and the Notorious Meg and her husband.

One of the main points, besides Istanbul, of my starting in Istanbul is that I love Turkey. It is one of my favorite countries, even when I have a really bad travel day. What I really want to do is take some pictures of the Cappidocia, Turkey region while there is snow on the ground.  It is such a photographically great part of the world.

From there, I am going to go to northern Iraq.  Now before anyone freaks out, especially my parents, this is just as safe as when I went to Somaliland.  Two great travelers and bloggers beat me to Iraq in the last few months, Wandering Earl in Iraq and Fox Nomad in Iraq.  The northern part is completely safe and I look forward to hitting it.

damascus syria

Then back through Turkey and down to Syria.  I love Syria.  This is a country that is basically undiscovered by Americans and you need to go there…. now.  Hamas in the north first, then down to, Damascus, one of my favorite cities.  And I want to hit some of the areas out on the eastern desert that I didn’t get to see last time.

From there, I am going to hit Lebanon, which I didn’t have time for last time.  Then back through Syria and down to Jordan.  Yes, I will hit Petra again — this time for multiple photo days.  Likely hit the Dead Sea, which I didn’t do the last time.

underwater photo dahab egypt

So that should take six weeks or so, then I am going to go back to one of my favorite places, Dahab, Egypt.  There, I am going to try to go ahead and get my dive master certification.

Dahab is one of those beach towns that makes you want ot stay for months.  So I think I shall stay for at least one.  Finishing the dive master course will take me that long and there is no place I’d rather do it.

From there, I am not sure.  There are some other areas in the Middle East I want to hit.  I hear the diving in Oman is great.  And Yemen is interesting.  Tons of places that people don’t normally go to — which is like catnip for my traveling soul.

87 Responses

  1. Wow, those are some lofty goals. Very impressed. It may be ignorance, but I would be nervous visiting some of those sections of the Middle East. Glad I can read about others doing it.

    • I went through in 2009 and have had a number of friends visit there short and long term. Its actually quite safe — and really one of the best places in the world to visit. So many interesting things and places. Hope you enjoy my posts from over there.

  2. Awesome to hear, sounds like we might be crossing paths quite a bit over the next few weeks. I’ll definitely keep in touch and hopefully we’ll get to meet in person.

      • Hi Michael, I’ll be leaving Fethiye in about a week. So far it’s Bahrain > Oman > Azerbaijan > Georgia before I track back through Turkey possibly.

    • I’m right there with you Ayngelina. Super jealous. No matter how much I plan the middle east in my head, actually doing it just seems like so much of a far-off dream and not something I’m actually going to be able to pull off.

        • I couldn’t meet up until early June. So unless you’re still gonna be around then, I’m out. If you’re still around tho, count me in! I gotta be out of schengen Europe from June 8 – July 29th

    • well, I am all for talking ya’ll into it while I am over there! Shoot me an email and I’ll convince him.

  3. This whole list of destinations made me smile. As a conflict management worker, I have to answer the “are you safe/why would you go there!” questions all the time as well. Get ready for lots of chickpeas in the Middle East – and maybe see you in Dahab!

  4. That’s awesome about your divemaster. I finally got around to getting my advanced this fall, and now I really want to do some specialty courses. Not sure if I’ll ever get around to full-on master classes, but who knows…

    My husband also wants to go to Iraq–like, very badly! He was in Azerbaijan doing his thesis a few years back and had plans to go to Iran while there. Only, he sprained his ankle really badly, and it thwarted all his plans. Fate? Perhaps.

    • he wants to go to Iraq – you want to dive more – sounds like ya’ll just need to join me over there for a few weeks!

  5. Wow Michael, it sounds like you’ve put together some pretty epic plans for the coming months. I’ll certainly enjoy following your journey though Syria and northern Iraq!

    Wishing you the best of luck with your new ventures too!!!

  6. Sounds awesome! I just kicked myself that I didn’t get over to Jordan at the end of my Egypt trip. And I love Dahab! If you need a break from the beach, try a hike through the Coloured Canyon – it’s beautiful!

  7. Sounds like a great plan. I was always dubious about how good the diving in Egypt could be compared to Asia/South Pacific, possibly because it seemed too close to the UK, but I’ve heard lots of good things about it. Dahab seems to be a place everyone loves.

    ‘A New Day in Old Sana’a’ is the film that made me want to go to Yemen. That city looks gorgeous and it is tempting to visit a country I haven’t heard of anyone going to (except Chandler in that Friends episode!). Anyway, you can do the research for us as we won’t get to the Middle East until 2012.

    Good luck with the money-making!

    • Yemen is certainly on the list, if I have time, along with Oman. Have been talking to some people there and it sounds great. Diving is also supposed to be great in Oman. And, the Red Sea diving is the best I have done anywhere in the world. Not that I am hugely experienced, but is great.

  8. It looks like you’ve got a great year ahead of you.
    Are you planning to go to Wadi Rum desert when you are in Jordan? It’s an amazing place…
    And by the way, I love the tattoo 🙂

    • I definitely am going to hit Wadi Rum — didn’t hit it last time. Looking forward to hopefully camping out there some.

  9. I really want to go to Damascus. I’ve read quite a lot of Middle Eastern literature and it just sounds like an amazing place. I am also jealous of you big time but I’ve got my own big trip to start this year but the Middle East is definitely on my soon to visit list!

    • Damascus really is great and the people are amazingly friendly and helpful. Make sure you hit it at some point.

  10. You’ve made me want to return to the Middle East immediately as I considered visiting Yemen (but didn’t) as well before leaving the region last month. Seems like you have some well-defined goals for the near future and I wish you nothing but success in achieving them!

    And if you do decide on Yemen, let me know….

    • your spring in SE Asia with about every blogger on the planet will be epic also — have loads of fun

  11. Wow, what an amazing itenerary! Those are definitely some of the lesser-travelled countries that no one ever writes about. Can’t wait to follow your adventures and really looking forward to the photographs. Good luck getting your DM qualification as well – another possible source of income while on having a great time on the road.

    • I really need to focus on being better about taking loads more photos this time. I am going to dedicate myself to that, for sure.

  12. Ohhh, are we going to get meet another real person instead of having virtual friends?! Who knows where Anil will be 🙂 but we’ll definitely be around somewhere.

    Very jealous if you get to see Cappodocia in the snow. It was the middle of summer when we were there and we said if we ever went back, it would be when it was snowing.

    As for the rest of your plans – wow! Think we might be trundling across to Antalya in March and we may go somewhere in September. An annual Istanbul jaunt squashed in somewhere…and that’s about as hectic as we get! 🙂

    • aside from loving Istanbul and wanting to meet ya’ll and some other folks over there…. Cappodocia with snow is the main reason I am headed that path. Hoping for it.

  13. Gorgeous Middle East, I was planning to settle there in the summer but probably I’ll extend my stay in China 🙂 I’ve only been to the UAE, my next stop will certainly be Oman. Looking forward to your accounts!

  14. *Swoooooon* I just got some new ideas for my next trip! I have a serious thing for Egypt. I’ve also had a little crush on Syria. It’s from afar as I’ve never been, but I’ve heard that it’s amazing.

  15. Wow, that’s one hell of an interesting itinerary. Can’t wait to read all about it. Good luck with getting your DM qualification – what a great way to earn some extra cash while travelling abroad!

    • ahhh, don’t know if I will ever use it to work. Not sure I have the right attitude for dealing with novice divers like me 😉

  16. I’m with Ayngelina, jealous.
    It will be good to read your blogs on those places. An interesting itinerary and I’d come too but got 2011 full up now.

      • Namibia May.
        4wd across Kalahari June.
        Vanuatu possible as a quickie winter break Aug.
        Home for Rugby World Cup Sept/Oct.
        And end of year looking at Brunei Sarawak.

        Somewhere in between, may have to work in a Romantic trip to Ireland. Winner announced tomorrow…. well we dream.

        Iraq I want to read about.
        Just putting your link on my site …had overlooked it.

  17. Unless I find a job in Berlin, I personally am thinking of leaving Europe for Asia for a couple of months (stopping by at home in Russia for my grandmother’s 90th birthday) and then maybe flying from Hong Kong to Vladivostok and taking the Transsiberian.

    • I originally intended to start in Morocco and go overland to Egypt, but talked to people and can’t get through Algeria like I wanted to right now. O well. You’ll have a great time.

  18. Great plan for 2011!! Dahab is one of my all time fav places on earth, as is Turkey (insert slight jealousy here). I look forward to following your journey. Lebanon and Syria are high on our list as well. Unfortunately that list seems to keep getter bigger, not smaller!

  19. Ah, the middle east! We spent about 4 months there in ’09 and it was terrific. I just want to mention to anyone that might be a little timid about that region how wonderful and safe it is. We were welcomed like Kings BECAUSE we were American, not despite it. Don’t miss Aleppo in Syria, it was our favorite place there. The souq in Aleppo makes the grand bazaar in Istanbul look like a lame tourist trap.

    • Bryan, it is interesting. The biggest and nicest welcomes I got as an American, would in countries where they thought our country hated them — Nicaragua, Colombia, Sudan, Syria. The people were amazingly nice.

  20. very interesting. Northern Iraq (Kurdistan Autonomous Region) was listed as one of the top 50 go to places (forgot which magazine), Read a very interesting book called My father’s paradise by Ariel Sabar, part of which is set in this area (his father is a Neo-Aramaic linguist who works with someone I know). Please get me some recipes while you are there and if you are ever in Israel I will invite you for dinner (using those recipes, how’s that for a bribe)

    • well, I’d love to travel with you a bit over there, if you don’t head back to New Zealand. For sure.

  21. Noticed you mentioned Dahab, several people have suggested I visit that place on my way to Europe. Also suggested it has everything you need to setup camp for a month or so. Cool seeing it again and looking forward to hearing about your adventures there.

  22. The Middle East is really calling me right now. We’re doing more Asia in 2011 — much, much more — across Indonesia into Papua, then up the mainland for China, Nepal, hopefully India, but I’ve seen so much amazing and beautiful stuff from Syria in particular that I’d really like to get closer to the MidEast.

    Hoping the income generation plan works out for you. I’m at a similar place. Just started working from the road…

  23. Wow, that sounds incredible!! I will definitely look forward to your upcoming trips this year. I am intrigued by the Middle East, have met a number of people from there, but have never been. You are going to some great places. I read a post recently on Cappodocia (I think it was Traveling Canucks) and that place is quite unique! Best of luck on your trips and I look forward to hearing about these travels!

  24. You’ve got such fascinating places on your list. I’ve been having discussions with some people lately about Iraq (ever since I read Fox Nomad’s piece about it). I’ve always thought how great it would be to go there if you could be safe. I have to admit that it doesn’t reach my personal definition of “safe” yet, but I hope it will someday. I’ll look forward to reading about all of your 2011 travels!

  25. Sweet travel plans! I can’t wait to one day get to the Middle East. My Arabic teacher studied in Syria and her husband is from there – they tell me it’s absolutely amazing. Have also heard great things about Oman. And Iraq would be fascinating! Happy 2011!

  26. what an awesome 2011! a challenge, tv, iphone, diving, middle east, turkey’s for life…bet you’ll do them all too! maybe our paths will cross in egypt- dying to get there. and of course wouldn’t mind hitting the other fab spots you mentioned too at some point. looking forward to reading all about it 🙂

  27. Michael, when you get to Jordan, go to Aqaba. The Red Sea is awesome for snorkeling and scuba. You won’t regret it. Good luck getting your financing in order. I would really like to see you on TV! We need a good travel show that discusses the culture and interviews locals and covers more than the best restaurants in town.

  28. Wow you’ve planned some great destinations for the next however long. We’ll be in India until May/June if you need an idea for afterwards 🙂

    And please share your thoughts for the new ventures/websites/iphone apps. V interested.

  29. I think Earl and Anil actually opened it up for the rest of us! I think everyone thought about but never wanted to take the jump and now that they have done it everyone knows its safe and that it can be done. It reminds me of Colombia how most Americans still have that stigma that its not a safe place to be… Killer plans for 2011! Cappadocia is absolutely amaaaazing!! Im heading in your direction next hear starting of in Kenya hopefully we can cross paths

    • It does remind me a bit of Colombia. Good analogy. I look forward to hitting it. Earl an Anil did a great job of writing about it.

  30. The Middle East is one of my fave parts of the world as well – with some of the friendliest, most generous people in the world. You’ll have heaps of fun!

  31. U are going back to DAHAB this year!!!!!!!!!!! Ohhhh, how much I hate thee! 😉

    And I agree with 110% of what u said about my favorite little town int he world =)

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