New Year, New Orleans, New Goals

For many of us, January is a time when we reflect on the accomplishments and un-met goals of the previous year and prioritize new goals for the coming year.

In January of 2016, I set two goals for myself: to get in better shape and to travel more.  It’s possible to say I met both of those goals though perhaps not to the extent I hoped.  I lost roughly 45 pounds (5 pounds less than my original goal), I made it to the second-to-last week of Couch to 5k twice (but have yet to actually finish it), and I visited some favorite cities and old friends.  I moved from New York City back to my hometown in Western Mass, I traveled up to Quebec City for the first time in over a decade, and then I moved down to New Orleans.

This January I have found myself planning not only goals for things I want in 2017, but goals that will set up the things I want for 2018 as well.  I think it’s a sign that my 25-year-old brain finally has a fully developed frontal lobe.

Most importantly in 2017, I plan to continue growing my freelance writing and consulting business into one that can better support my hobbies going forward.  I have a deep affection for travel as well as documenting those travels through writing and photography.

My recently completed frontal lobe has impressed upon the rest of my brain the important lesson of patience.  For years I have said I want to “travel more” but only in the last few years have I started to understand and put into work ways to make more travel truly possible.  Rather than trying to take a small number of trips to hemisphere-local places, I want to use 2017 to set myself up for some really exciting international travel in 2018.

That’s not to say I’ll be doing no traveling in 2017 — I plan to enjoy Mardi Gras and some of the spring in New Orleans before hopefully heading north to Seattle as to avoid the brutal summer in the south.  In the late summer and early fall I may again go further north to see Canadian cities I have never visited, like Vancouver and Toronto, as well as old favorites like Halifax and Montreal.

Looking ahead to 2018, I am hoping to make a lifelong dream a reality.  Since beginning to study Chinese and Russian as a young teenager, I’ve wanted to take an extended train trip across across both countries to see the long list of cities I studied.

The trip will take me from St Petersburg and Moscow in western Russia across to Lake Baikal in the east, passing through Kazan, Yekaterinburg, Omsk, Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, and Irkutsk before heading south to the capital of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar.

From there, I’ll travel to Harbin, China (timed correctly to see the ice festival, of course) and down the Chinese coast through Beijing and Shanghai before turning back west.  I’ll visit the Venice of the East, Suzhou, the old southern capital, Nanjing, and the home of the Shaolin Temple, Zhengzhou.  Dipping down to Chengdu to visit a friend before heading back up to Xi’an and further west to Uyghur cities like Urumqi and Kashgar.

I’ll leave China via the Irkeshtam Pass heading to Kyrgyzstan, visit a friend in Kazakhstan and continue through the former Soviet Stans from Uzbekistan to Tajikistan, back into Uzbekistan and finally Turkmenistan (should the visa gods be in my favor).  Ideally I’ll end the trip with a ferry across the Caspian Sea to visit Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia before returning home.

Should all or part of this epic overland trip become a reality, I’ll be launching a YouTube channel to track my travels and of course continuing to update this blog and my other social media.  So buckle up and follow along, because I have big plans and I’m looking forward to taking anyone interested along for the virtual ride.

Cover photo by Damon Lynch

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