Ah, yes. You have dreamed about what it will like to set foot in a new place, a place where the people and foods and landscape are not what you are used to seeing every day. But there are so many places to visit and you are not sure where to go first. I have been here. And I continually revisit this place, because after all, there is only so much time and money to travel. I know I want to travel, but don’t know where.
Planet Earth is a huge place – at least in perspective to our bodies, not in perspective to the universe. And the truth is, you won’t get to every country or even close to everywhere you want to go. But as is the case with so many things, the beauty is in the process of pursuing and seeking. It truly is all about the journey.
So here are some of the things to consider to help you decide where your next trip will take you:
Go to a different country or stay in your own country?
Traveling abroad is exotic and seductive (location dependent of course), but don’t rule out the idea of going to a different state or part of your own state. Especially if you live in the United States, it is so large and has many different subcultures. If you live in a crowded city on the eastern seaboard, consider what it’s like to be in the Rockies. Mountains so majestic, you will have to pinch yourself to see if it’s a dream. If you live in chilly Alaska, the tropical fruits of Hawaii can seem like a world away, and in reality, it’s only a few hours on a plane and plenty of direct flights to boot.
What sort of climate and landscape draws you?
The tropics and beaches are popular tourist destinations. And I am not knocking them, because I love warm water and sunshine myself. Yet maybe it’s mountains, or cooler climates that appeal to you. Visiting the temperate regions in shoulder season is a real delight. The crowds from peak season have faded, but the weather is generally pleasant enough to enjoy the outdoors, at least for part of your days. Go someplace that truly calls to you. Don’t go anywhere just because you see a flashy ad.
What is your budget?
Your budget will be driven by where you are going, how you are getting there, and where you will stay once you are there. Planes and hotels can be expensive, but if you plan ahead and choose carefully, you can manage the costs. The tropics are generally less expensive regions to visit (with a couple exceptions). Getting a ticket to SE Asia is expensive, but once you are there, it’s inexpensive to travel. So if you are going for long enough to justify the plane ticket, this is an option. If you want to visit a more expensive destination like Europe, consider traveling at off peak times. Hotels and car rentals will be much more affordable. If you are truly on a budget, get out and explore places you can get to in your own car. I have done countless road trips and loved them all, although maybe not every moment of all of them. Depending on where you live, you may have National Parks and/or adorable rural towns within your reach.
Is there a particular culture or country’s history that calls to you?
I was hell bent on getting to Cuba. Part of my desire was because it was taboo. Part was because I was intrigued by the layers of history dating back to the Spanish American war of the late 1800’s and everything that happened since – the Revolucíon led by Fidel Castro, the country’s relationship to Russia, the embargo, and the European countries that befriended Cuba. Their history was unique compared with the surrounding Latin American countries. I am beyond happy that I got over there after Obama opened it up for Americans. Now Trump is putting the kibosh on that and we will be back to sneaking in through Mexico.
How much time do you have to plan your trip and how long will your trip be?
The less time I have or want to put into planning a trip, the closer to home my trip will be. I call a close to home trip somewhere I can reach within two hours on a plane, hopefully nonstop. Some people can whip up itineraries to visit four European countries in eight days with hardly any planning. That is not me. Flying long distances is not great for my body and when I do that, I like to go long enough (eighteen days or more) to make it worth the time and money invested to get halfway around the globe. This ties into your budget. If you have plenty of time and are intrigued by somewhere exotic, then by all means, set your goals high and go for it. If you have a week or less, you may want to consider pulling in the reigns a bit.
How often do you plan to travel?
If your answer is every few years, then it may pay to consider saving up for and planning a trip to a further destination. If you can carve out some travel time multiple times a year, then there is a less of a concern that this trip has got to be the trip to take the cake.
These considerations aside, maybe you still have not narrowed down your list. Talk to friends and family and ask them where they have gone and where they really loved. I find if I meet someone very interesting and they name a place they went, it stimulates me to think about it for the future. Sometimes on the traveling circuit, I hear the same places come up in conversation again and again. This is enough to make me research it as well.
Watching the Travel Channel never hurts. Or, go to your favorite bookstore and browse the travel section. See what jumps out at you. Although they can have issues, I find the Lonely Planet guides to be very useful, but there are hundreds of guides out there. Pick one that speaks to you and your interests.
In the end, make your journey personal. The destination has value because you give it value. One region is not inherently better than another. Staying engaged and open minded is what is important, not whether you go to the closest city, go camping 90 miles from home, or spend fourteen hours on a plane.
Never has it been truer – it’s all about the journey.