So we made another lap around the sun and stayed up late to watch the calendar flip to an even-numbered year. That means it was time to once again draw from our travel basket. The last time we drew a trip idea from the basket, we ended up going to Portugal. That was Kristin’s handiwork. This year it was my turn.
The basket was down to 107 trip ideas, many of them to far-flung destinations, but also some quite closer to home. And, if we’re being honest, we were both hoping to draw a road-trip destination (e.g. Grand Canyon, Yosemite, or Banff National Parks) on account of the adventure trailer we recently purchased (more about that in a subsequent post once I collect it from the RV dealer in Minnesota).
But the whole point of the travel basket is to add some spontaneity and chance to our travels once every other year.
Our First Mulligan
Last time we drew from the basket, days after completing 22 months of travel, and just two weeks before re-entering the workforce, we knew there were some entries that would be impossible, whether due to cost or vacation time. So we came up with a rule: we get 3 mulligans for the life of the travel basket.
We didn’t expect to use one so soon.
I reached into the basket the night of December 29th, getting a jump on the planning, and seeing no reason to wait through the entirety of a holiday weekend for no reason in particular.
I reached in, mixed the knotted pieces of washi, and drew Venezuela. Gulp.
If you’re a fan of the Pixar movie “Up” or know a thing or two about geography, then you’re probably aware of Angel Falls, the world’s tallest waterfall. Similarly, if you pay the slightest bit of attention to world events, then you know Venezuela is undergoing a bit of, shall we say, turmoil.
Though I was tempted to dismiss the selection within moments, we thought it only fair to look into it. So we did. All the big name, trusted, adventure tour operators — Mountain Travel Sobek, National Geographic, REI Travel for starters — have all ceased offering trips to Venezuela. Reviews for less popular guides boasted glowing 5-star reviews on TripAdvisor, mostly from unverified “clients” with no other reviews or TripAdvisor history.
State department travel warnings are often politically motivated and used to punish countries that wind up on our government’s naughty list. There was no need to waste time checking the US State Department’s page. One could only imagine the warnings. Instead, we checked the travel advisories posted by Australia, the UK, and Canada.
She’ll Be Collecting Seashells in the…
I gave the basket a good shake. Mixed it up with my hand, pinned one of the entries against the wicker wall and drew. Would it be the Grand Canyon? Perhaps Nova Scotia? New Zealand or Croatia?
The Seychelle Islands.
I’ll admit that we both did a bit of a double-take when I drew it. We had forgotten we even had that entry in there. And, for a moment, my mind went straight to the Maldives, that gorgeous island chain most threatened by rising sea levels.
“Where is it?” Kristin asked. I forgot. “Somewhere in the Indian Ocean, I think.” We laughed and took our massive atlas off the nearby shelf.
The Seychelle Islands consist of 115 islands roughly 900 miles off the coast of east Africa, a thousand miles north of Madagascar. In other words, about as far from our home in the greater Seattle area that you can possibly get on this planet.
After much deliberation (and the helpful input of our Facebook followers) we decided to cash in some flyer miles and roll the dice on an itinerary with Ethiopian Airlines that will take us from Seattle to Washington D.C. to Addis Ababa, and onward to the Seychelles. Our return trip involves additional layovers in Stockholm and Dublin, the latter of which will be long enough for me to imbibe some pints in Dublin on my birthday.
Snorkeling, Hiking, and Creole Food
So what are we gonna do there? Good question. We both get supremely bored sitting on the beach without some sort of activity. Fortunately, there’s plenty of hiking to do on the largest island of Mahe (including a 3,000 foot mountain), ample snorkeling opportunities, swimming, fishing, and maybe even water skiing or scuba diving. And, of course, abundant Creole barbecue which we’re already looking forward to.
It will be a pretty relaxing trip, and certainly less active than we’d have planned for most other destinations. But we’re excited. How could we not be? Nearly every travel site calls the Seychelles among the world’s most beautiful island chains.
We’re aiming to visit in September, during the shoulder season, when the waters begin to calm, but before the fall crowds come in.
The current plan is to spend a week on Praslin and La Digue islands using AirBNB and other budget accommodations before returning to Mahe island for four nights of luxury at the adults-only Hilton Northolme Resort. The guidebook we ordered from Amazon has already been delivered, the airfare booked, and emails out to AirBNB hosts.
September need not arrive too soon, however. We’ve got a couple of trail races to train for this winter and spring (requiring trips to Las Vegas and Oregon) and I’ll be returning to Hawaii in May for research on my next novel. And, of course, plenty of nights out under the stars in our Tigermoth trailer. 2018 should be a great year!
We Want to Hear From You!
If you’ve ever visited the Seychelle Islands, please let us know any tips or suggestions you have. Likewise, drop us a line in the comments below if you’re already planning out your 2018 travel plans. We were thrilled to meet up with our friends Carolyn and Kevin (they hosted us outside London while we were on our bicycle tour) in Japan this past September. So please stay in touch, you never know when our paths may cross.