Above: Cross it off the wish list!  Amanda hikes the Inca Trail.  Click for a larger version.

I haven’t always had a travel wish list.  I usually just tagged along at every opportunity that crossed my path.  Countless family road trips, ski vacations, friends’ family vacations, camping trips.  Hell, I even toured the Bayer Aspirin factory in Köln Germany and witnessed the unearthing of a dinosaur in a private archaeological collection in Tokyo.  That last one was ridiculously cool.  Even during my study abroad in Prague I just wanted to go anywhere and everywhere.

Later when I was living in Prague I started prioritizing my travel plans because there is an unbelievable amount stuff to see in such a close proximity.  Instead of planning week long trips and booking air fare we simply hopped trains and left the country for weekends.

My first wish list locations were domestic Czech destinations such as friends’ family villages, World War II sites like Terezin and local festivals such as the Rose Festival in Cesky Krumlov (the wish list also applies to specific events and not necessarily locations). Soon I looked outward with Vienna and Krakow and then Berlin and Salzburg.  Next came lower key places like Dresden and Wroclaw.  After about a year the whole country of Italy made the top of the list with it’s own fully prioritized sub list .

Once I moved back to Ohio the jumbled wish list was wiped clean and I started fresh.  There were New York and Chicago within relatively close proximity, by American standards, but they were still more like secondary items.  About as quickly as I left Europe I knew that the top spot was going to be reserved for Peru.  And there it stayed for about 7 years from 2001 until we finaly took the leap last October in 2008.  Boy that one was worth the wait!

Now I find myself with a number 1 wish list spot temporarily unoccupied.  Rather, there are a couple locations that have been jockeying to be Peru’s official successor for years.

1. Croatia – This one has been there dating back to the good ol’ Prague days.  Croatia was a favorite vacation location for wealthier Czechs and I suppose that seed was planted almost a decade ago.

2. Turkey– Specifically Istanbul but the entire Anatolian peninsula.  The cradle of human civilization right?  Where east meets west.  Not completely Muslim, not completely Christian.  Yadda yadda.

Unfortunately, I have this bad habit of traveling to places when it’s out of fashion.  I moved to Prague with the rest of the flood of expats who were looking for cheap beer and Soviet kitch and I made it to Peru just after they placed limits on the number of daily passes to the Inca Trail.

Now I’m beginning to think that I’m way late on Croatia.  It was a throat sinking day when Matt Lauer wound up in Dubrovnik a couple of years ago broadcasting in front of a screaming crowd of American sign holders.  Shaking my fist at my TV I cursed his name and I’m still bitter every year when I try and guess “where in the world is Matt Lauer.”  Right about now Istanbul is taking front stage as the exotic European alternative too.  Pretty soon we’re going to see Paris Hilton skankin up Turkish dance floors and breeding a whole new generation of youths determined to eradicate Americans (sometimes I almost see their point).  And I just know I’ll throw up a little in my mouth when it happens.

Mostly these two are interchangeable.  I just hope I don’t have to wait another 7 years to cross one off my list.

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