Happy New Year: A Look at My 2021 Travel Wishes

With the new year of 2021 officially having begun, let’s hope for a better year full of exciting travel opportunities. In this article, I will detail some of my own travel wishes and give some predictions on how the world of travel will look like in 2021.

Happy New Year

First of all, I however want to take the opportunity to wish all Paliparan readers a happy new year! Let’s hope the next year will be a more normal year, full of health, love and of course some amazing travels!

It’s of course impossible to fully predict what will await us all in 2021, although I’m sure that for most people 2021 already looks more promising than last year.

2021 happy new year paliparan
Happy New Year to all our readers! May 2021 be a better, less challenging year when it comes to travel! ©Paliparan

Travel predictions

As you might have read in the news, in many countries the vaccination programmes against COVID-19 are in full swing. Israel is leading the world here, as the country has already vaccinated more than a million citizens, while the UK is nearing this number.

Putting the public health benefits of vaccine aside for a moment, travellers across the world of course mostly hope that once vaccines are rolled out, most travel restrictions will disappear.

Although I think that eventually that will be the case, I don’t think that moment will arrive very soon, certainly not in the first half year of 2021.

With health workers, the elderly and medically vulnerable being the first in line, it will surely not be until the end of 2021 when the general population will be vaccinated in most European countries.

Corona restrictions

I therefore think that most corona entry restrictions (PCR tests, home isolation, quarantine etc.) will stay in place for most of the year. At one point, I expect countries to grant some kind of waiver or exemption to those travellers who have received their shots, meaning that these travellers do not have to show a PCR test or need to go in home isolation.

That would be a fair temporarily solution, as long as other travellers who did not have received their vaccine yet or who might have moral obligations still have a reasonable way to travel and to enter a foreign country.

Of course, only allowing vaccinated people in would be highly discriminatory, especially so because in large parts of the world the roll-out of the vaccine will be much, much slower.

I would certainly expect the start of 2021 being fairly the same as 2020, also because so many countries across the world are still battling the second corona wave and the winter months on the Northern Hemisphere not being the most suitable to kick back the pandemic.

Only towards the end of 2021 I foresee some major relaxations when it comes to entry restrictions and overall corona measures.

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Corona testing facility at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport ©Paliparan

How to travel

This all means that at least for the first half of 2021, travel will still all be about flexibility. As measures might still be introduced at a last minute or changed overnight, I don’t think it’s a smart idea to book international holidays in advance, unless it’s all fully flexible and/or refundable.

In the last years, my own travel style and life situation has always been one of utmost flexibility and spontaneity, which means that I’m sure that I will have some great travel opportunities, even though I might not know the destination yet.

I tend to avoid countries with strict home isolation/quarantine laws, as well as those which require a negative PCR test on arrival. I’m fine with being tested on the spot, but I hate the uncertainty of needing to provide a PCR test which must not be older than 48 to 72 hours. I’ve heard too many horror stories from others who didn’t receive their test results on time, and were thus not allowed to board.

I’m absolutely fine with booking at the very last minute, but I hate last-minute uncertainty about the trip, especially when you have a complicated travel itinerary (which I often have) and when you made some non-refundable reservations.

Travel wishes

To end this article, I’d like to name a few destinations which are currently on my mind. That said, this list could change at every minute given that some destinations are mostly on the list because of their accessibility, while others are travel goals which I had for quite a while longer but which seem to be impossible or unlikely in 2021.

1. Mexico

Mexico has been very stable over the last months when it comes to their corona virus entry requirements: there are none. No PCR test is needed, and you don’t have to go in isolation. Local measures are taken on state level, which means that in some Mexican states life is pretty much like normal with restaurants and bars being open.

Given that Mexico is such a huge, diverse country with so much to see when it comes to nature, history and culture – it automatically goes on the top spot.

Although I have actually stepped foot in Mexico for a few hours, crossing the border from San Diego to Tijuana, that doesn’t really count as “having visited Mexico” so I’m quite excited to see more of the country.

oaxaca mexico
A local festival in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. ©Screenshot

2. Tanzania

Like Mexico, Tanzania doesn’t have any special corona entry requirements as the country is fully open for tourism. There is lots to see in Tanzania, whether it is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, going on safari in one of the many national parks such as Arusha and Serengeti, or lazing at a beach on the island of Zanzibar.

As I only managed to visit two African countries so far, Tanzania would be a logical destination.

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Elephants and zebras in the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania. ©Screenshot

3. Egypt

Egypt has been on my travel wish list for longer. I tremendously enjoyed my travels through the Middle East and Egypt is one of the few missing countries in this region despite being one of the most significant from a cultural and historical perspective.

I don’t care about visiting any of the Red Sea beach resorts, but would love to travel from Alexandria to Cairo and then by train and/or river boat all the way down to Luxor and Aswan on the River Nile.

You however need a PCR test of maximum 72 hours old (96 hours if flying from London) when travelling to Egypt. There is however one major exception: If you fly to one of the coastal resorts, you can also get a test on arrival, having to self-isolate until the test results are in.

egypt desert nile sunset
I have flown over the Nile Delta and Egyptian deserts a few times, but never visited it! ©Paliparan

4. Ireland

This may sound weird, but I know that there are lot of people who can relate to this. After one year of lockdowns and closed restaurants and cancelled festivals, I’m mostly looking forward for life to return to normal in 2021. A big part of normal life is visiting the pub, and there aren’t many countries better in the world for this than Ireland.

A perfect trip would combine a few days in Dublin and the surrounding area before heading out to Ireland’s wild west coast such as Connemara for example. Visiting Cork instead of Dublin would be a possibility too, given that I never visited Ireland’s second biggest city before while I have been to Dublin a few times.

2021 travel wish pub guinness
In 2020, I only managed to visit an Irish pub once – in Stockholm, Sweden of all places. I miss my pint of Guinness and proper live music! ©Paliparan

5. Northern Sweden

Sweden is one of Europe’s last bastions of freedom when it comes to being fully open for tourists and still allowing its citizens to visit pubs and restaurants. In 2020, I happily visited the country twice and was amazed by how normal life seemed to be compared with the rest of Europe.

One journey in Scandinavia which I always wanted to do is taking the train from Stockholm up north to Kiruna and Narvik (Norway). Currently, the train terminates in Kiruna I believe given that Norway has a strict quarantine for those who enter the country. When Norway however opens up, this would be an amazing journey to make.

I love train travel in general, and this long journey across Scandinavia just looks fantastic. In the summer you have lots of daylight – on 21st July the sunset in Narvik was only at 20 minutes past midnight. In the winter, there are those wonderful snowy landscapes and the chance to see the northern lights.

An ideal itinerary would then be to take a flight down from Narvik to Bodø, the northern point of Norway’s main railway network, and taking the train from there back south to Trondheim and Oslo.

stockholm narvik train
The Stockholm to Narvik train is one of the railway journeys I would love to make. ©Rome2rio

Other travel wish-list entries

In some way or the other, the five travel wishes above are doable in 2021 barring some unforeseen circumstances. Most to all countries were open for much of 2020, and I expect them to be as well in 2021.

There are however some other travel wishes I have. These would however depend a lot on the global situation whether the pandemic can be beaten back and these nations slowly reopen again for foreign visitors. These wishes are:

6. Chicago to San Francisco by train

I’d like to visit the US again – either to make a road trip, or to visit some places by train. The US has some highly scenic, epic train routes, with perhaps the California Zephyr being the best of them.

Starting in Chicago, it then crosses several midwestern states before reaching the wild beauty of the Rockies in Colorado. Then there is the wild beauty of Utah, the Nevada deserts, and finally the Sierra Nevada in California before the train finally reaches the pacific. I wouldn’t say no to an epic American road trip either!

7. Trans-Siberian or BAM

Russia has its share of epic railway journeys too. Of course, there is the Trans-Siberian railroad connecting Moscow with Vladivostok on the Pacific Ocean (with the Trans-Mongolian railway branching off at Ulan Ude and heading south towards Ulaanbaatar and Peking).

Even more epic is perhaps the BAM – which stands for Baikal Amur Mainline. It’s basically a more northern version of the Trans-Siberian Railway, going through even more inaccessible, wild terrain! It’s about as off-the-beaten track as you can get in Russia. To some that might sound like hell, but I would love it.

Russia should introduce an e-visa programme in 2021, which would make such a trip a lot easier to arrange.

irkutsk railway yards station railway line
Russian trains in Irkutsk, Siberia. ©Paliparan

8. Island hopping in the pacific

This is a long-shot given the costs involved, but one day I hope to be able to do some pacific island hopping. Aviation nerds will probably have heard of the United Airlines island hopper route, which connects Hawaii with Guam, stopping at the islands/atolls of Majuro, Kwajalein, Kosrae, Pohnpei and Chuuk on the way.

That flight would already be amazing to take just for the views from the plane window – and many people actually do so without getting off. But how awesome would it be to visit one or two of these remote islands for a few days?

From Guam, there are then flights further across the pacific to Yap, Palau and the Philippines. There simply isn’t a more awesome way to fly across the Pacific! There should be so much to see on these islands, from exotic cultures, great beaches to a lot of World War II history.

island hopper
You can travel all the way from Los Angeles to Manila across the Pacific with commercial flights by stopping at almost every island or atoll in between. ©Great Circle Mapper

9. Australia or New Zealand

I’ve visited almost all of Europe, I have been to many countries in Asia, visited some places in Africa and the Americas, but never made it all the way down under.

Needless to say, there is a lot to see and do in Australia and New Zealand. Although there are some places which are higher on my list here than others (Tasmania, New Zealand’s southern island for example) I honestly wouldn’t even care that much where I would go. Anywhere in these two countries would be brilliant, although given the strict travel measures both countries have chances are low of it happening in 2021.

10. Andorra and San Marino

The only two countries I have still to visit in Europe. There is also plenty to see and do in the Pyrenees around Andorra, as well as in the Italian regions of Emilia-Romagna and Marche surrounding San Marino, making it more interesting than it initially sounds.

What are your predictions and travel wishes for 2021? Don’t hesitate to leave a comment and let us know about your dreams!

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Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.

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