Ten things I’m looking forward to in 2016 (and a couple more that I’m hoping for)

42762094_sI think it’s fair to say that any year when you undergo heart surgery is a rough one. By that standard, 2015 was challenging for me. Not that the year was without its magical moments; seeing Angkor Wat and Mount Rushmore in person were certainly bucket list experiences, and after I recovered from my operation I increased the number of countries on my World Karaoke Tour to 39 by singing in Rome.

On a non-travel-related note, in July I moved to a new apartment — still in Manhattan, but in a much better building, with far superior management to the slumlords who own the apartment that I vacated, and in a nicer neighbourhood. My new residence provides me with more pleasant surroundings — a big plus, since on the vast majority of my days I’m not off globetrotting, but am hanging out in my home base of New York City where I work full-time as a lawyer.

Me at Mount Rushmore in July 2015.

Me at Mount Rushmore in July 2015.

So with my surgery 110 days in the past, 2015 is ending on a high note for me; and as the world prepares to begin using its 2016 calendars, I have heaps of exciting plans for the year ahead. Here are the things that I’m most looking forward to in the upcoming 366 days (remember, ’16 is a leap year!):

1. Charleston, South Carolina for New Year’s

Tomorrow I’ll be flying to Charleston, South Carolina; it’ll be my first-ever visit to this city in the southern U.S. that I’ve long sought to experience. In 2014, readers of Conde Naste Traveler magazine voted Charleston the no. 1 city in the U.S. to visit, and the no. 2 city in the world to visit. I look forward to finding out firsthand why Charleston makes such a spectacular impression on its visitors. While in town, I’ll be taking in historical sights as well as reconnecting with some old friends who reside in the area. And Charleston is where I’ll be ringing in the new year. Because this is a karaoke travel blog, I feel obligated to mention one more aspect of what’s in store for my sojourn in Charleston: either in the last days of 2015 or the very beginning of 2016, South Carolina will become the 21st U.S. state in which I’ve sung karaoke! (Technically, my tally will then stand at 20 U.S. states, plus the District of Columbia, which lacks statehood status. But I’m trying to keep things simple here. 🙂 )

Stock photo of some historic homes in Charleston, South Carolina.

Stock photo of some historic homes in Charleston, South Carolina — the city in which I’m going to start 2016!

2. Baltimore, Maryland in January

In mid-January, during the long weekend that includes the Martin Luther King Day holiday, I’ll be paying a visit to Wil, a friend from my university days who lives in the town of Sparks, a suburb of Baltimore. I know Baltimore well, having lived there for four years when I attended Johns Hopkins University; and it’s easy to reach from New York, being less than a three hour train ride away. Among the highlights of my January 2016 excursion to Maryland will be a dinner that will also include several additional friends, at an eatery that’s probably my favourite Greek restaurant outside of Greece. (The restaurant is situated in Baltimore’s Greektown section; the city is home to a large contingent of Greek-Americans.) In addition, Wil has four ultra-cute parrots who are quite gregarious, and it’s always delightful to spend time with those birds when I’m in the Baltimore area. For all the ornithologists out there, Wil’s parrots include two Hahn’s macaws, Tucker and Olive; a mitred conure named Rusty; and a green-cheeked conure named Wilma.

A view towards Baltimore's Inner Harbour, as seen from my hotel room during my previous visit to "Charm City" in April 2015.

A view towards Baltimore’s Inner Harbour, as seen from my hotel room during my most recent visit to “Charm City,” in April 2015.

3. Nassau, Bahamas in February

Hanging on the wall of my apartment is a National Geographic map of the world. Pushpins placed on the map indicate the cities where I’ve performed karaoke. As yet, only one pin has been affixed to the portion of the map depicting the island nations in the Caribbean Sea, despite the proximity of that region to the United States; although there are 12 autonomous countries in that region, the only one in which I’ve thus far stepped foot is the Dominican Republic. But in February, during the long weekend that’s celebrated in the U.S. as President’s Day weekend, I’ll double the total number of Caribbean countries I’ve travelled to when I jet off to Nassau, Bahamas. (The hotel in which I’ll be lodging is actually on Paradise Island, which is connected by bridge to New Providence, the island on which Nassau is located.) Heightening my anticipation for my Bahamian jaunt, the Bahamas is scheduled to become the 40th country overall in which I’ve karaoked!

Stock photo of a beach in Nassau, Bahamas.

Stock photo of a beach in Nassau, Bahamas.

4. The Explorers Club Annual Dinner in NYC in March

The Explorers Club (EC) is an organisation of some 3,000 members around the world who share a dedication to the advancement of human knowledge about our planet, and indeed the universe, through hardcore exploration and scientific fieldwork. Its members are far more than mere tourists (not that there’s anything wrong with being a tourist). The townhouse that serves as the EC’s global headquarters is conveniently (for me) situated on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and is well worth a visit just to see the fascinating artifacts that it houses. I was privileged to attend an event there in October 2013; you can read about that here. Perhaps the EC’s signature event is its Annual Dinner (ECAD), which is traditionally held on a Saturday night at the famed Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and is open to non-members (although tickets are expensive; plus, if you’re like me and don’t own a tuxedo, you also need to rent black tie for the occasion). The ECAD is as notable for its cuisine as for the high caliber of its honorees and speakers; creepy critters such as cockroaches and tarantula, as well as such exotic fare as ostrich, are served during its cocktail hour. (These delicacies are prepared under the supervision of a man who holds the official title of the EC’s “Exotics Chairman”; he also oversees the preparation and serving of similar gustatory delights at events held at the EC’s townhouse.) Although I haven’t purchased my ticket yet, I have every intention of attending the 112th ECAD in mid-March! (I previously attended the 110th ECAD in 2014, and wasn’t disappointed.)

Here I am, with my friend Ethan, about to chow down on a scorpion at an event in the Explorer Club's worldwide headquarters in New York City in October 2013.

Here I am, with my friend Ethan, about to chow down on a scorpion at an event in the Explorer Club’s worldwide headquarters in New York City in October 2013.

5. China, Taiwan, and North Korea in May and June

From the zigzagging expanses of the Great Wall, to the Forbidden City in Beijing, to the terracotta warriors in Xi’an, to the pulsating skyline of Shanghai — not to mention some kickass cuisine — China alone would be sufficient to make this trip epic. But on the same journey, I’ll also be hitting Taiwan — featuring Taipei 101, which was the tallest building in the world from 2004 through 2010 — and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), commonly referred to in the West as North Korea. Multiple friends who’ve visited all 193 United Nations-recognized countries have told me that the DPRK is the most interesting place they’ve encountered; and my tour of Pyongyang and a nearby village promises to be unique and unforgettable.

If all goes well, Taiwan and the DPRK will become the 41st and 42nd countries on my World Karaoke Tour! (Although I’ll also sing in mainland China for the first time, I won’t count China as a new country on the tour, as I’ve already done karaoke in Hong Kong and Macau, which are Chinese territories.)

Stock photo of a portion of the army of terracotta warriors in Xi'an, China. Buried in a gigantic pit in the third century B.C., they were found in 1974.

Stock photo of a portion of the army of terra cotta warriors in Xi’an, China. Buried with the first emperor of China in a gigantic pit in the third century B.C., they were found by some local farmers in 1974.

6. Savannah, Georgia in July

Savannah, like Charleston, is a pleasant city in the southeastern portion of the U.S. that has ranked high on my to-do list for a while. I’m finally going to check it off my list during the long weekend surrounding the American Independence Day. Bonus: Savannah has a reputation as one of the most haunted cities in the world, and you can count on me taking at least one ghost tour during my stay. 🙂 And while we’re on the subject of nighttime activities, you don’t even need to ask whether I’ll make my way to a karaoke venue in Savannah. 🙂 Georgia will thereby become the 22nd U.S. state in which I’ve made a karaoke appearance!

Stock photo of the iconic fountain in Forsyth Park, in the historic district of Savannah. The fountain was installed in 1858.

Stock photo of the iconic fountain in Forsyth Park, in the historic district of Savannah, Georgia. The fountain was installed in 1858.

7. A high-level trivia conference in Las Vegas in August

2016 will be the ninth consecutive year to include a visit by me to Las Vegas! And for the sixth year in a row, the purpose of my Vegas vacation will be my attendance at the Trivia Championships of North America (TCONA), a gathering of some of the smartest and most knowledgeable people on this continent. (TCONA usually draws a few attendees from Europe as well.) The level of competition at TCONA is brutal, although going up against the sharp trivia minds that show up inspires me to learn more facts and up my own game. At the same time, I place a high value on pursuing my other interests as well. So although the trivia events at TCONA are intense, you can be assured that, as always, I’ll manage to fit in some blackjack and karaoke while I’m in Sin City. 🙂

Looking south along the Strip from the Eiffel Tower's observation deck.

An aerial view of the Las Vegas Strip, from the observation deck atop the Eiffel Tower at the Paris hotel and casino. This photo was taken during my last visit to Las Vegas in August 2015.

8. Seattle in September

My wanderings have taken me to Seattle before; in 2013, the Emerald City was the scene for one of my funnest karaoke nights of all time. The impetus for my return to Seattle, which will happen during the long holiday weekend in September that’s observed in the U.S. as Labour Day weekend: I’m going to take the legendary tour of the Boeing factory. As a big-time aviation geek, I’m uber-excited to watch giant airliners being assembled! (The factory is located in Everett, about 28 miles north of downtown Seattle.) Of course, I’ll also fit in some other attractions in Seattle that I didn’t have a chance to hit in 2013, and hopefully I’ll catch up with some friends who live in that city (although, since those friends are world travellers like me, you never know when they’ll be home 🙂 ).

Stock photo of a Boeing 787, one of the three models manufactured at the Boeing factory in Everett, Washington, USA. (The same plant also produces 747s and 777s.)

Stock photo of a Boeing 787, one of three widebody aircraft models manufactured at the Boeing factory in Everett, Washington. (The same plant also produces 747s and 777s.)

8. Budapest in November

The website “Most Traveled People” identifies Hungary as one of the three “easiest” places outside of my home country that I haven’t yet made it to (as measured by percentage of the website’s members who have spent time at that destination). After November 2016, they’ll have to change that listing! For five or so days surrounding the American Thanksgiving, I’ll be in Budapest, a gorgeous city that straddles the beautiful blue Danube. I can’t wait to see what I’ve been missing out on! And for Thanksgiving dinner, while most of my friends and family back in the States will be dining on turkey, my repast will feature some goulash. 🙂

Hungary is expected to become the 43rd country on my World Karaoke Tour!

Stock photo showing a view of Budapest.

Stock photo showing a view of Budapest.

9. The Middle East at the end of the year, and into 2017

I intend to be somewhere in the Middle East when 2016 gives way to 2017. My tentative goal for the itinerary that I’ve been cobbling together in my mind is to combine excursions to Dubai, United Arab Emirates (home to, among other things, the current tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, which soars to the astonishing height of 2,717 feet); Petra, Jordan, a stunning archaeological site renowned for its temples carved into pink cliffs; and Israel, a country teeming with historical treasures and a destination of special interest to me in light of my Jewish heritage. Note: While I’d heard that the UAE doesn’t admit travellers whose passports contain Israeli stamps, that widely-held belief has been debunked as a myth, and in any event, any concern about that issue is obsolete since Ben Gurion International Airport in Israel no longer even stamps travellers’ passports. Thus, it probably won’t matter in which order I hit the UAE, Jordan, and Israel. Anyway, it’s too soon for me to have begun thinking through the logistics and making travel arrangements for this voyage. 🙂 But I envision departing from New York around Christmas, and returning during the second week of January, 2017.

In some sequence, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Israel should become the 44th, 45th, and 46th countries in which I’ve sung!

Stock photo of the ruins of a monastery at the Petra archaeological site in Jordan.

Stock photo of the ruins of a monastery at the Petra archaeological site in the Jordanian desert.

Other possible adventures

Niagara Falls

In addition to the above plans, most of which (with the exception of the end-of-2016 Middle Eastern trip) are firmly in place, I’m also hoping to visit Niagara Falls — a bucket list location that’s not even very far from my home base of New York City — if the timing can be worked out. That would probably happen in early autumn.

Stock photo of Niagara Falls as seen from the Canadian Side. I hope to capture these awe-inspiring cataracts with my own camera!

Stock photo of Niagara Falls as seen from the Canadian Side. I hope to capture these awe-inspiring cataracts with my own camera!

Los Angeles, where I hope I’ll be tapped to appear on a certain game show

There’s another thing that I would very much like to do in 2016, but whether it comes to pass is out of my control. In March 2015, in Washington, DC, I auditioned for the television quiz show “Jeopardy!” Several months thereafter, I was forced to temporarily remove myself from the pool of potential contestants, due to my then-impending heart surgery; but when I felt sufficiently recovered from that little medical procedure, I arranged to resume my place in what the producers call the “active file” of people who are under consideration to be chosen as a contestant. I’m pretty sure that “Jeopardy!” has never had a contestant who was a worldwide karaoke singer before; so if they select me to appear on the show, I’ll fill an underrepresented niche. 🙂 If I’m lucky enough to receive what “Jeopardy!” fans refer to as “The Call,” I would fly out to Los Angeles, as the show is taped at a studio in nearby Culver City; and I always enjoy venturing to the L.A. area, where I have many good friends and where I never run out of interesting and offbeat attractions to check out. I believe that I would enjoy immensely the experience of competing on “Jeopardy!”, while having fun doing it; and it would also be great to get to know the group of brilliant and interesting folks who would constitute the other contestants during my taping week. But like I said, it’s not up to me whether this coveted opportunity that I seek will be offered to me. I do hope that at this time next year, I’ll be able to say that my travels during the preceding 12 months included Los Angeles. 🙂 (In case you’re wondering, I’ve been told that I’ll remain in the “Jeopardy!” producers’ active file until sometime around late November, 2016. If I haven’t been selected as a contestant by then, I’ll be eligible to take the next online test, which will probably be administered in January 2017, in an attempt to qualify for another audition; and the process will then start anew.)

Looking towards the downtown Los Angeles skyline from a scenic overlook off Mulholland Drive.  This photo was taken during a visit I made to the L.A. area in September 2012.

Looking towards the downtown Los Angeles skyline from a scenic overlook off Mulholland Drive. This photo was taken during a visit I made to the L.A. area in September 2012.

And on the home front . . .

When I’m not on the road, I hope to get around to some of those “sites in or near New York City that I’ve always been meaning to visit but haven’t yet found the time to make it to, despite having lived in this city for over 20 years.” 🙂 As well, I’ll be attending two annual travel shows in New York City: the New York Times Travel Show in January, and the New York Travel Festival in April. To me, the next-best thing to travelling is thinking about travelling; and at these events, I’ll learn more about possible future destinations for my World Karaoke Tour, as well as acquiring new travel skills; being introduced to products and apps that will make my journeys easier; and interacting with people who share my passion for travel.

Of course, I also look forward to continuing to blog about my worldwide karaoke experiences, and about the above-mentioned adventures that I’ve lined up for the next 52 weeks. I hope you’ll be along for the ride.

I can’t wait for 2016! Have a very happy New Year!

Where are you planning to go in 2016?

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Categories: Asia, Europe, travel, World Karaoke Tour | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

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16 thoughts on “Ten things I’m looking forward to in 2016 (and a couple more that I’m hoping for)

  1. Wow! Sounds like a busy travel-filled year for you! Definitely looking forward to mine as well! Cheers and may you have a happy new year 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow good on you even after heart surgery for getting out there and keeping on exploring. Sounds like you have some super fun things planned next year! Happy holidays 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  3. elizabeth

    You seem to have recovered from your surgery! Good luck on your efforts to get on Jeopardy! How was the food in Charleston? I always see it as a foodie destination in the USA.

    Liked by 1 person

    • @Elizabeth: Yes, I am fully and completely recovered from the surgery. Thanks for the wishes re: “Jeopardy!” Charleston has some top-notch restaurants, and although I’m not a foodie, I’ve been enjoying some good eats here.

      Like

  4. Michael

    Harvey, I visited Pyongyang last year (well, technically, two years back since I’m writing this from the train heading from Nagoya to Kanazawa, where it’s now 2016), and I stayed at the Yanggakdo Hotel, which, as best I recall, had an onsite Karaoke bar in the basement. If you’re going with Koryo Group, as I did, you’ll likely stay in the same hotel so will be able to sing in the evening. In your jam-packed 2016, I’d be wiling to wager that the trip to NK will be your highlight.

    Liked by 1 person

    • @Michael: Yes, I’m going with Koryo group, and they’ve told me that the hotel that they principally use in Pyongyang has karaoke on-site. I do expect NK to be a highlight of my 2016.

      Like

  5. Harvey, you have such an exciting year ahead! It will be so fascinating to explore China! Budapest is on my list, too. Heading there in February. I’m a big fan of off-season European travel. More than anything, though, your willingness to be yourself and create the kind of life you want shines through this post. Very inspiring, indeed!

    Like

    • @Jackie: Yes, I’m very excited for what 2016 has in store! It’s off to a great start so far as I’m in the middle of item #1 on the list (my trip to Charleston) and thoroughly enjoying it! And thank you for saying such nice things. I’m glad to have been inspiring to you. I do think that willingness to create the kind of life that one wants is a common characteristic of travel bloggers.

      Like

  6. Wow, sounds like you have a lot of travels coming up in this new year!
    Funny to see some similarities too! Personally we hope to see more of China (we live here, so if you have any questions…)

    Savannah & Charleston are on my list now too as I’ve read about it a couple of times and got my interest.
    Oh, and we’re going to the Netherlands this year for our wedding!

    Liked by 1 person

    • @Yvon: Of course, the parts of China I’m gong to are the most touristy, and you’ve probably seen them many times over. 🙂

      I can’t speak yet to Savannah, but I very much enjoyed Charleston, which I just came back from.

      Congrats on your upcoming nuptials! The Netherlands is certainly an interesting destination for a wedding. 🙂

      Like

  7. I absolutely love Budapest! I’ll also be traveling to Taiwan (this month) and Shanghai this year as well as Vietnam and Hong Kong. Living in the Republic of Korea means I’m often homesick for New York but it also means easy long weekend trips around Asia.

    Liked by 1 person

    • @Alana: I’ve heard great things about Budapest, and can’t wait to finally get there! My company has an office in Seoul, and I’ve periodically considered being posted there as it would make a great jumping-off point for seeing more of Asia (heck, I’ve barely seen Korea, as I only spent a small amount of time there about a year ago). But I think my employer would require a two-year commitment, and I don’t think I could handle being away from New York for that long.

      Like

  8. David C.

    Wow, what an itinerary.

    Re: China: Let me know what you manage to find. When I took a business trip to Beijing a few years ago, my hosts told me that karaoke is typically box-style, and that the bar-style we prefer generally takes place in very sleazy locations run by organized crime and isn’t a good idea to visit. If you can find a decent place there, I’d love to hear about it.

    Re: Middle East: Sounds like quite a trip. Just be sure to keep your religion under your hat, so to speak. I would be very nervous, as a Jew, setting foot in any Muslim country these days. I know that some (like Saudi Arabia) go so far as to make it illegal for a Jew to set foot in the country. I assume that more cosmopolitan countries like UAE won’t be that extreme, but it would still make me very nervous.

    Re: Jeopardy!: Awesome! Be sure to let us know when your episode airs. And be sure to show lots of enthusiasm at the interviews. TV game shows like to show contestants who get excited when they win.

    Have fun. You deserve it!

    Like

    • @David C.: Re: Saudi Arabia, my information is that it’s not true that Jews are banned from entering — only people with Israeli citizenship. However, I’ve also heard that it’s difficult for any American, regardless of religion, to get a Saudi entry visa. I’m not at all worried about UAE; my cousin was just in Dubai and Abu Dhabi last month and she had no problems. I’ve had Jewish friends who visited Dubai without incident too.

      I’m really hoping that between the three cities I’m hitting in China, I’ll find at least one proper karaoke bar. However, if all I find there is karaoke box, I’m not above pulling a Bill Murray and crashing someone’s party in one of the private rooms. 😀

      Finally, before I can let you know when my “Jeopardy!” episode will air, I have to get The Call to be a contestant so that I’ll actually have an episode that I can tell people to watch. That may or may not happen.

      Like

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