Having a travel battle plan for 2019 is important because here in Travel and Live Free, we take travel very seriously. From a personal stand point, one of my life mission is to visit all 193 UN recognized countries. With that being said, I’ve change my plan a little bit from before. Originally, my plan was to visit all 193 UN recognized countries by April 2023. However, after doing some soul searching, I realized it would be irresponsible to complete that goal by April 2023.
My goal is to get married and start a family sometime after 2023. If I blow all my savings visiting all 193 UN recognized countries by April 2023, then I would have nothing left to start a family!
And so, I have tweaked my plan of action. My new goal is to simply chip away visiting all the countries in the world whenever I have some vacation time from my day job.
With that being said, here are 20 countries that I put in my mandatory must-visit before April 2023:
- Central African Republic
- Libya- Leptis Magna and Ghadames
- Burkina Faso
- Republic of Congo
- Mali – Timbuktu
- Niger – Agadez Mosque
- Yemen – Socotra
- South Sudan
- Sudan – Meroe Pyramids
- North Korea
- Democratic Republic of Congo – Mount Nyiragongo
The countries I bolded are places I want to visit and see something specifically. The others, I don’t mind just getting in and getting out just to tick it off as a country visited.
So basically, every time I go on vacation, I’d like to be able to tick off at least one of the countries above. And if one of those countries borders countries I’ve never been to before, then I will also visit those as well.
The only exception to the rule is if I’m visiting a friend abroad or if my girlfriend, sisters or friends want to travel somewhere specific. In that case, I don’t mind deviating from the plan a bit to travel with them.
My travel battle plan for 2019
May 22 to June 13 – Vietnam, Rwanda, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Turkey, Romania, Switzerland, Chicago
I’ve talked about this in great detail in the Travel and Live Free newsletter. If you haven’t done so already, go ahead and subscribe! I also wrote about my Aeroplan mini-RTW booking for this trip on this article so you can check that out here if you want to learn how I booked my flights to all these countries.
Basically, on this upcoming trip, I get to tick off two of my must-visit countries before April 2023. And those are Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. Both countries are listed in the “AVOID ALL TRAVEL” in the Canadian travel advisory website. Now you see why I want to visit those countries before I start a family. I can’t go to “dangerous countries” knowing that I have a family to raise. With that being said, all countries still have safe pockets you can visit even if they’re labelled as dangerous and I’ve done my thorough research to find those safe pockets.
Vietnam – Nha Trang
I found the Vietnamese people in Vietnam to be really friendly. Even growing up here in Canada, many of my best friends are from Vietnam. One of my best friends growing up was actually born in Nha Trang and so I am looking forward to visiting his home city. Too bad he can’t travel with us when we go there.
Karen (my girlfriend) has also been complaining that we don’t go on normal vacations. So going to Nha Trang will be our “normal” vacation. I had a 7-day free hotel voucher at a category 4 Marriott property. I redeemed it at the Sheraton hotel in Nha Trang which is right beside the beach.
We’re basically going to relax here and just do normal tourist stuff like eating street food, going to spas and checking out the big amusement park. We’ll be staying in Vietnam for a total of 7 days.
Rwanda – Kigali, Gisenyi, Gisovu, Akagera
I’ve never been to Rwanda before and definitely feel excited to visit this country. Apparently, Rwanda is one of the top 5 safest countries to visit in Africa. Apparently, Rwanda is trying to be the Singapore of Africa. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the cleanest countries in Africa already. They’re so obsessed with cleanliness that plastic bags are illegal in Rwanda.
When we go to Rwanda, we’re definitely going to do a city tour of Kigali to learn more about the Rwandan Genocide. Karen actually wrote a paper about it back when she was in college. So, it’s going to be neat seeing what she wrote about in person.
We’re going to check out lake Kivu in Gisenyi, and the tea plantation in Gisovu. And of course, you can’t go to Africa without doing a safari. When we go to Akagera, we will be doing our safari in that national park. Altogether, we plan on spending 9 days between Rwanda, Uganda, DRC, and Burundi.
Gorilla tracking is definitely on my travel bucket list and for many people as well. Because Democratic Republic of Congo increased the price for gorilla tracking, we decided to go to Uganda instead to see the endangered mountain gorillas.
We’ve already gotten our gorilla tracking permit for Bwindi National Park.
Apparently, gorilla tracking is physically strenuous so I hope my cardio can keep up. I’ve heard of stories where people have been helicoptered out of the jungle because they can’t handle the trek.
I’ll definitely work on increasing my cardio level before our trip.
Democratic Republic of Congo
DRC is one of the 20 countries I put in my mandatory list of countries I need to visit before April 2023. The country is a troubled one with kidnappings of British tourist back in May 2018. They’ve since bolstered security in the tourist areas. However, tourism has dropped significantly since they re-opened Virunga National Park.
Going to Virunga National Park is one of my biggest life bucket list. The park is one of the oldest in the world and is home to the endangered mountain gorillas. Our plan here is not to do gorilla tracking; instead, we plan on trekking up Mount Nyiragongo which is an active volcano.
We get to sleep on top of the volcano as well and see the lava lake in the volcano’s crater at night. This is going to be one hell of an adventure.
Burundi is another country in my mandatory list of countries I need to visit before April 2023. Because the country is extremely corrupt, I don’t plan on staying here for long.
My goal here is to simply enter the country, get the passport stamp, take some pictures, then go back to Rwanda. I’m not really interested in exploring Burundi and for me, it’s simply a check list country.
Getting the Visa for this country has been the time consuming part of preparing my trip to Burundi.
Since we are flying on Turkish Airlines and have an 8 hour layover in Istanbul, Karen and I are eligible for a free city tour. Turkish Airlines will provide their passengers with a bus and tour guide to take you around the city and be back in time for your flight.
I don’t think Karen and myself have time to explore the entire city but hopefully we get to see the highlights. Turkish Airlines said if we aren’t able to complete the entire tour, they’ll help us find an option to get back to the airport somehow.
Romania is one of the few European countries I haven’t visited yet. And to make our Aeroplan mini-RTW a true around the world trip, we obviously need to visit a European country.
In Romania, our goal is to see Bran Castle which has been referred to as Dracula’s castle. Besides Bran castle, we’re also going to check out Peles Castle and the town of Brasov. Altogether, we have about 2-3 days in Romania.
When you book an Aeroplan mini-RTW, sometimes, availability sucks. As a result, Karen and myself have to do an overnight layover in Zurich for our flight back to North America. On the bright side, we get to fly business class on Swiss Airlines on the way back to North America.
Another city that we have an overnight layover is Chicago. I’ve never been to this American city before so we might look around and check it out.
Sept 14 – Sept 29 – New York, Malta, Moldova, Cyprus, Finland, Russia, Ireland
This trip is the exception to the rule I imposed on myself for these next few years. As mentioned, my goal is to visit at least one of the 20 countries I must visit before April 2023. However, a friend of mine who lives in Finland invited me to come visit him. I decided to take this opportunity to redeem my Aeroplan miles and do an Aeroplan mini-RTW in Europe.
The cool thing about this upcoming trip is if I am successful, I will have visited every single country in Europe! That’s definitely a huge milestone in my quest to visit all the UN recognized countries.
I’ve never been interested in visiting New York. I know it’s one of the world’s most famous city and seeing the Statue of Liberty definitely interests me. At the same time, I feel that most people who visit New York are the status seeking type of traveller. It’s just one of those places that people think is cool to say that you went to.
My flight into New York is a long layover with my flight arriving at La Guardia, then I connect to JFK and fly to Switzerland and connecting to Malta.
During my trip booking, I managed to secure a long layover in Malta (just a little under 23 hours). As a result, I can stay here overnight and check out the city. I’m looking forward to this part of the trip because I’ve never been to Malta.
I’ll probably join a city walking tour when I go here.
Moldova is another long layover that I have during this trip. From what I heard, there’s nothing to do in Moldova. So when I go here, I’ll probably walk around a little, get some food, take some pictures then head back to the airport. From there, I will be flying to Warsaw with a connecting flight landing in Cyprus.
My flight lands in Cyprus at 3am which is gonna suck. My flight out of the country is also 24 hours from the time I land and it’s also at 3am.
I wish I had more than 24 hours here because Cyprus looks like an awesome country to visit. This country has tons of ruins which looks to be from ancient Greece. Because my vacation time is so short, I’ll be reserving most of my time for the other countries I’ll be visiting in this mini-RTW trip.
If I end up enjoying my time in Cyprus, I’ll definitely return here one day and bring Karen with me.
Finland is one of my major stopovers for this trip. Here, I’ll be visiting a friend. I’m also using Helsinki as my hub to go to Russia. I haven’t figured out yet how I will go to Russia but I’m definitely going to fly into Moscow from Helsinki.
After Russia, I’ll be staying in Helsinki for about 3 days just to hang out with my friend before flying back home.
I’ll be staying in Russia for the bulk of this upcoming trip. I’ll start off by spending two days in Moscow. I obviously want to see the Kremlin, Red Square, and St. Basil’s Cathedral.
After Moscow, I’ll be taking the train to St. Petersburg where I’ll be staying with some friends I met while trekking in Mount Roraima in Venezuela. I’ll be staying with my Russian friends there for 3-4 days before taking the train to Helsinki.
For me, the Hermitage Museum is my biggest must see destination in St. Petersburg.
On my flight back home after Russia and Finland, I managed to secure an overnight layover in Ireland. I’m not really super excited to visit Dublin, Ireland because I would prefer to go to Northern Island to see the Giant’s Causway. Regardless, I am very happy to know I get to tick off the final country in Europe after visiting Ireland.
Conclusion to my travel battle plan for 2019
My travel battle plan for 2019 is straight forward. Check off some countries in my list of 20 must visit by April 2023. And of course, to check off any countries I haven’t been to before.
If all goes well, I’ll be nearly done Europe after 2019 with just Iceland left to complete.